Hey everyone! 

Welcome to our informative Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) skills guide. 

After reading this guide, you will better understand the CNA Skills required to provide optimum patient care to make a difference in your patients’ lives while keeping your employers satisfied.  

This guide will cover:

  • Essential CNA Skills
  • Clinical/technical CNA skills
  • Patient Care CNA Skills Checklist

Let’s dive straight into it!

The Essential CNA People Skills  

The Essential CNA People Skills

Whether you’re just contemplating becoming a CNA or you’re already on your way to becoming one, there are specific skills you can’t ignore if you’re going to perform your job duties effectively and become an outstanding employer. 

While CNA Training Programs will teach many of these skills, there’s no harm in getting familiar with them through your initiative so that you are more than prepared to take on the job. 

With that being said, let’s look at the ultimate CNA skills every CNA needs to relate to colleagues and patients effectively. 

Strong Attention to Detail

With CNAs probably being in more contact with patients than any other medical professional, you must pay attention to your patient’s needs. 

This could be monitoring their non-verbal cues, such as when a patient uses their body to communicate discomfort. 

Paying attention to detail is critical in every aspect of your job, including when recording treatment administered to your patient for Doctors to make an evaluation or when interpreting charts and forms regarding a patient’s pertinent medical information. 


Nursing has to be some of the most unpredictable and demanding professions across several careers. 

Because nurses are constantly faced with difficult situations and are thrown under the bus to look after varying types of patients with different health challenges, CNAs have to be flexible in the way that they administer patient care. 

With not all patients being the same, a CNA should adapt to each patient’s care needs and ever-changing personality. 

Additionally, with the job requiring your availability at the most random of times, you need to be flexible enough to accept ever-changing shifts and several occasions of overtime work.  

Empathy and Compassion

Without a doubt, patients go through a lot when under the care of a CNA. 

Through empathy and compassion, CNAs can detect a patient’s negative feelings, such as fear or worry, and act on them immediately. 

CNAs who are empathetic and compassionate can facilitate a caring bedside manner that eases patient tension while building a therapeutic relationship with their patients, contributing to better health outcomes. 

Finally, a patient who receives empathy from their CNA will likely feel more comfortable sharing their distress and feelings of concern, promoting awareness in the CNA.


Certified Nursing Assistants often work with patients who are elderly and sick, which will result in slowness in motion, sometimes irritability due to frustration in their situations, or even scaredness. 

In other cases, a CNA might be dealing with a disabled patient who perhaps suffers from a passive range of motion. 

In all these instances, CNAs need to exercise patience so that they do not discourage their patient but instead show them the support required to maneuver their illnesses.  

Good Communication Skills 

Communication skills are regarded as some of the most critical CNA essential skills. 

Efficient communication skills come from the CNA’s ability to accurately hear and record what patients require and relay this information to other healthcare members. 

Similarly, a CNA would have to accurately take instruction from other healthcare professionals to care for their patients. 

With good communication, CNAs will act promptly to patients’ needs and offer personalized services.

Good working relationship with other staff

Medical staff such as nurses and doctors are highly dependent on CNAs to relay crucial information surrounding a patient’s development, such as changes in their vital signs or their daily food intake. 

Building good relationships with other medical staff helps CNAs easily communicate their patients’ daily activities and ultimately leads to greater productivity in the chain of work. 

And because these are people you’ll be spending most of your day with, you must build positive relationships with them to make your job more enjoyable. 

Technical and Clinical Skills 

 Technical and Clinical Skills 

In the next section, we’ll focus on a list of skills associated with clinical competencies.

Familiarity with medical terminology

A CNA is more of an intermediary between a patient and a doctor; hence, a good knowledge of medical terminology is vital for accurately communicating patient information to nurses and doctors and administering patient care as per the doctor’s direction. 

Medical terminology can get quite lengthy, so you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time getting to know each term. 

A trick to learning all the terms quicker is first to understand the root meaning of medical terms, e.g., any word containing Dermato refers to a medical condition related to the skin. 

In addition to medical terms, there will be several abbreviations you’ll need to know for effective communication with other healthcare workers.  

Knowledge of the various machines

From thermometers and stethoscopes to check vital signs to digital devices used for measuring blood pressure or respiration rates, there’s a variety of tools and machines that Nursing Assistants use to make their jobs more manageable. 

Knowing the functionality of each of these tools and when you are required to use them will help you give better care to your patients. 

Additionally, you’ll be able to provide accurate data to the nursing staff, who will plan out competent care.

Now that we’ve covered an in-depth analysis of the top people and technical skills required to be a successful CNA, let’s look at the clinical skills that will be paramount when caring for patients. 

CNA Skills Checklist on Patient Care

 CNA Skills Checklist on Patient Care

If you have not yet taken the state certification exam, you might not know that clinical skills are part of the knowledge evaluated in the exam. 

During the clinical assessment, you’ll have to demonstrate the below clinical skills, which will carry a lot of weighting in marks and influence whether you pass the exam or not.

Once you’ve passed your clinical assessment, these clinical skills will come in handy to you as they will become part of your day-to-day duties when caring for patients.

Indirect Care 

Refers to the care CNAs are expected to give patients from a distance. 

In other terms, they are acts of care that do not require physical interaction with the patient, such as updating medical charts and scheduling.


You must know how to administer proper handwashing, which includes techniques associated with a lathering of soap to using a paper towel on the patient. 

Handwashing is the only skill tested in all CNA exams across different states.

Assist with the use of a bedpan

 A bedpan is used for toileting in patients who cannot stand up and administer toileting on their own. 

Apart from knowing how to use a bedpan, CNAs must understand how to clean patients properly for infection control and how to administer overall perineal care to prevent odor and irritation.

Taking Vital Signs 

CNAs need to learn how to record and count the different vital signs, including body temperature, respiration rate, radial pulse, and blood pressure. 

Ambulation with a gait belt 

Tests your ability to use gait or transfer belts on patients to assist them in ambulating. Because movement needs to be slow and controlled, this skill is vital to hone to avoid hurting patients.

Positioning Patients 

CNAs will have to familiarize themselves with the different types of anatomy positioning, including prone, supine, fowlers, right lateral recumbent, to mention a few.

Mouth care, Hand, Foot, and Nail care 

CNAs must help their patients obtain proper oral hygiene to prevent cavities and other bacteria from breeding in the mouth. 

Similarly, hand and foot hygiene is necessary to prevent the patient from getting an infection.

Bathing, Dressing Patients 

This skill goes over the procedures that should be taken when helping a patient remove their gown and take partial bed baths.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Knowing how to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to dispose of it is crucial for CNAs to prevent diseases.


Often, patients can not feed themselves when in the care of a CNA. 

Hence, CNAs need to know how to properly feed patients while sitting upright to prevent choking and other accidents.

While these are the most basic essential clinical skills you’d need to learn to become an efficient CNA, you should hone a few other critical skills. 

These include brushing dentures, administering range of motion exercises, measuring and recording weight and urine, and changing an occupied bed.


Conclusion on CNA Skills

Knowing the essential Certified Nursing Assistant Skills will enable you to care for your patients and efficiently perform all your daily duties. 

With the critical role that CNAs play in the nursing industry, learning these skills well is the key to helping patients cope with illness. 

We hope you can practice all the CNA skills to better your competency as a CNA. 

Good luck!


FAQs on CNA Skills

How many skills are there for CNA?

According to Stone Academy, there are between 20-30 skills tested in the CNA Certification Exam. However, considering all the people skills, technical and clinical skills that CNAs must possess, there may be well over 60 skills a CNA should have to do their daily duties efficiently.

How to be a better CNA?

Being a good communicator and having patience are among the top skills to hone to become a better CNA. Otherwise, ensure that you first receive education from a CNA Training Program, learn all the skills required for the job, and engage with continuing education.

What are basic CNA skills?

Some of the most critical CNA skills to have include strong attention to detail, good communication skills, patience, flexibility, and knowledge of medical terminology.  However, this is not an exhaustive list; there are several other important people and clinical skills that CNAs should have.

What are CNA skills?

These are expertise crucial for Nursing Assistants to perform their daily duties effectively. Due to caring for patients being a demanding job, there are several skills a CNA needs to adopt.  CNA Skills include a range of people skills, technical skills, and clinical skills such as counting vital signs.

What does a nursing assistant do?

A Nursing Assistant is responsible for assisting patients with their daily living requirements such as eating or toileting. They also work as an intermediary between the patient and Nursing staff as they track patients’ development and relay this information to nurses and doctors who create patient care plans.

What is the CNA competency evaluation?

A CNA competency evaluation program tests the competency of a nursing aide to administer patient care according to the skills and knowledge taught in the CNA Program.

What skills should I put on my resume for CNA?

Skills that will amplify your CNA resume include strong attention to detail, familiarity with medical terminology, flexibility, empathy, compassion, patience, and good communication skills. Other vital skills to have as a CNA are knowledge of the various medical machines, record-keeping, and upholding good working relationships.


US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Stone Academy

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