Do CNAs Make the Best RNs?




“CNAs make the best RN supervisors.”

I see some version of that statement a lot on the various CNA Facebook pages. The idea behind it makes sense: in order to properly supervise caregivers, you have to be familiar with the work they do and the best way to achieve that is to have done it yourself.

For me, this raises two questions. First, from my perspective as a caregiver, what are the qualities of a good supervisor? Second, did I find this true in my own experience? Do the supervisors I admire the most have CNA experience?

Everyone has their own ideas of what qualities make a good supervisor. These are what I like to see in mine:

1) Caring and compassion for the residents as demonstrated by their actions, not by what they say.

2) Technical competence – both medical and managerial. I want to have confidence in their ability to address problems in a practical way – whether it’s an issue with the residents, the staff or the administration.

3) Awareness of what is happening on their unit. Not just the stuff at the desk, but what’s going on down the halls. Especially what’s going on down the halls.

I thought about all the supervisors I’ve had over 25 years and which ones best demonstrated these qualities. I came up with three. Then I considered whether or not they worked as caregivers at some time in their career.

Of the three, I knew that two did indeed have experience as direct caregivers. The third, I wasn’t sure about. And of the three, she best exemplified the qualities I listed above. She was amazing.

Since I wasn’t sure, I asked her if she ever worked as caregiver.

Make it three out of three.

Of course, this is a pretty slim database and my criteria are subjective, so it doesn’t really prove anything. And I’ve had several good supervisors that have had no caregiver experience. And I’ve had some lousy ones who did.

I think it’s important that we don’t discount those RN supervisors who haven’t worked as caregivers. There are other ways to develop the qualities we like to see in our supervisors other than working direct care.

But maybe there is something to the idea of making CNA experience a required part of RN training.

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