Working As A CNA: How To Feed Patients

You may be here looking for that critical next step in your life, or maybe, you just want to learn more about the skills of a Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA. Before we jump head first into what working as a CNA is like and how to feed a patient; let’s start with what some of the benefits of becoming and/or being a Nursing Assistant are:

Job Stability
Emotionally Rewarding
Enriching Work Experience
Opportunity to Specialize
Growing Job Market
Every Day is Different
Opportunity to Travel
Continued Education

If one dives deeply into some of these benefits, you’ll see that the types of benefits for being a Certified Nursing Assistant are diverse and can appeal to multiple facets of who you are as a person.

So, What Do Nursing Assistants Do?

Nursing assistants, also known as nursing aides, provide basic care and help patients with the activities of daily living.

To get more in depth with this; let’s dive in to what kinds of basic care and help they provide with the activities of daily living:

Serve meals and help patients eat
Measure patients’ vital signs, like temperature and blood pressure
Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
Move and care for patients in beds and wheelchairs
Help patients to dress and use the restroom
Clean and bathe patients
Dispense medication (depends on training level and state requirements)

Because of the interpersonal nature of these activities, nursing assistants often develop close-knit relationships with their patients because in many cases they are in the facilities for months or even years.

CNA Crash Course: How do CNA’s help patients eat?

To touch on serving meals and helping patients to eat, here’s some tips to make sure you do this effectively as the amount of assistance required will vary from patient to patient.

Before you begin assisting your patient, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent contaminating their food, greet your patient, and explain that you are going to help them with their meal:
Ask the patient what they need help to complete. Some patients may not be able to open beverages or cut food into smaller pieces. You can complete these tasks for them and then allow them to handle the rest themselves.
Verbally impaired patients may need a few verbal cues to eat their meal.
If a patient is paralyzed or suffering from weakness, you’ll need to cut each bite into small pieces and feed it to them. Don’t rush them, and watch for signs that they are having difficulty with the size or texture of food.
After each bite, make sure that the patient has completely chewed and swallowed the food before offering another bite. Be sure that the temperature of food is correct, as food that is too hot may cause painful burns to the mouth.

As a rule of thumb, familiarize yourself with this checklist and you’ll be just fine with the task of feeding a patient:

Performed beginning tasks
Prepared the resident for the meal (used the restroom and washed hands)
Positioned resident in sitting position as appropriate
Matched food tray/diet items with resident’s diet order
Matched food tray/dietary items with appropriate resident
Protected resident’s clothing, as appropriate or as resident prefers
Noted temperature of food and liquids to avoid food that is too hot or too cold
Fed moderate-sized bites with appropriate utensil
Interacted with resident as appropriate (i.e. conversation, coaxing, cueing, being positioned eye level with the resident)
Alternated liquids with solids, asking resident preference
Ensured the resident has swallowed food before proceeding
Cleaned resident as appropriate when completed
Removed tray, cleaned area
Performed completion tasks

Feeding time for patients can be a bit disorienting. Some patients have specific spots where they like to eat, some like to eat in their rooms, and you have to feed those who are unable to eat by themselves. If you haven’t done this before, the task may seem a tad daunting at first. Many of these people were in the prime of their lives when you were born, and now you’re treating them like they’re young. It’s a total role-reversal.

A tip for caring for patients who eat really slowly is to try feeding them for ten minutes at a time. Swap between them and other patients. Maximize the amount they eat, and take notice of their feeding chart to see if there has been a decline in their appetite.


The golden rule when feeding your patients, is to treat them how you would want to be treated. If you would want a drink in between bites of food while eating, why wouldn’t they? You’ll appreciate the same treatment when you reach their age.

If you’re looking for your next healthcare job opportunity, don’t forget to check out the free niche healthcare job board, Healthcare Consultant (, today. You won’t regret it.

Author's Bio: 

Jake is the Digital Marketing Manager for the niche healthcare job board, Healthcare Consultant ( He holds a B.B.A. in Marketing with a minor in Business from Western Michigan University and has a certification in Software Development.