Angels at Your Door: How Hospice CNAs Support Patient Care

by Arlene Correia, CNA

One of the many services offered to Hospice of the Red River Valley patients is regularly scheduled visits by our certified nursing assistant (CNA) staff. Four years ago when I joined the CNA staff at Hospice of the Red River Valley, one of my mentors, Jerry, who is a long-time CNA and Hospice employee, said that he likes to think about our visits with our patients as an opportunity to bring the “spa experience” to patients, in their homes and at their bedsides.

Tasks CNAs perform include:

  • Bed baths and/or showers, depending on a patient’s need, ability and preference
  • Nail, oral and skin care
  • Bed-making and linen changes
  • Light housekeeping
  • Incontinence and catheter care
  • Meal assistance, including light meal preparation, when patients reside in their own home

Our CNA staff members are carefully selected, not only for their expertise in performing these tasks, but also for their compassionate and empathetic nature. Our goal is to help patients feel comfortable and develop trust with them while performing very personal cares.

Regular CNA visits bring another set of eyes, coupled with a professional awareness, to our patients’ bedsides. They bring comfort and reassurance, not only to our patients, but also to their family caregivers.

Hospice of the Red River Valley CNAs are committed to the very delicate and sacred work that end-of-life entails. Recently, a Hospice of the Red River Valley nurse said, “They [CNAs] are all so thorough and passionate in what they do, tender in their touch and professional in their interactions with their patients, families and all other Hospice staff. They inspire and humble me on a daily basis.”

As a patient nears transition, his or her needs become simpler. Great pleasure is derived from seemingly inconsequential acts like a warm wash cloth gently held on a patient’s face eliciting the response, “Ah, that feels SO good.” The same is true for a good back or foot rub with lotion.

Angel at Your Door_Arlene_quote


CNAs are the frontline of our organization. We report changes in a patient’s condition, keep watch on a person’s skin and educate patients and their families about safe and appropriate methods for transferring a patient, or changing the bed sheets while a patient is on “bed rest only.” We give family members a much needed break from caring for their loved one around the clock.

We learn about our patient’s preferences and habits by being good listeners and using our professional intuition and warm hearts. We help teach the family ways to be more proficient in caring for their loved one.

There is “sweetness” in this work we do. We are honored to take part in the lives of our patients and their families at such an intimate time. We believe each human being deserves to die comfortably and leave this life with our respect for them, and most importantly, their own dignity intact.

We witness some of life’s finest moments doing this work: the love expressed among family members, in many different ways, the way that conflict is resolved (or sometimes not) when family members gather for the parting of their loved one and the strengths and vulnerabilities of our human nature.

It seems in the tender moments surrounding a death, we become so deeply connected to this beautiful life.

Arlene Correia is a CNA with Hospice of the Red River Valley.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
In 1981, Hospice of the Red River Valley was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality end-of-life care. We fulfill our nonprofit mission by providing medical, emotional, personal and spiritual care, as well as grief support to our patients, their families and caregivers during a tender time in life. Our staff helps those we serve experience more meaningful moments through exceptional hospice care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wherever a patient calls home. The organization serves more than 40,000 square miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, including in and around Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Devils Lake, Fargo, Fergus Falls, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Thief River Falls, Valley City and many more communities. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers round-the-clock availability via phone, prompt response times and same-day admissions, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Contact us anytime at 800-237-4629 or


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