One of the most difficult aspects of CNA training and becoming a CNA is death. After your CNA training, whether you decide to work in a hospital setting or a long term care facility, you will be called upon to assist in post-mortem care. This is serious work, and it must be completed with proper etiquette and respect, no matter how difficult it might be for you.
CNA Training Refresher: What is Post Mortem Care?
During CNA training, you will be taught the ins and outs of post mortem care. You will learn that this is the process of cleaning and preparing the body after death so:
- The family is able to spend time with their deceased loved one
- The body can be straightened, cleaned, and settled before rigor begins to set in
Even with the best CNA training and many years on-the-job, post mortem care can be frightening and emotionally overwhelming. For this reason, CNAs generally perform this duty with the help of other CNAs or a supervising nurse instead of by themselves. Working with others allows you to position and move the body more safely while having the emotional and spiritual support you need from your coworkers.
Etiquette and Behavior During Post Mortem Care for CNA Training Graduates
Because of the sensitive nature of post mortem care, the correct behavior and etiquette is essential. You may find after CNA training that many of your co-workers react to death in their own way. Some may try to lighten the mood. Others may react with anger or sadness. While every caregiver has a right to their own feelings, their attitude during the actual post mortem care from a CNA training graduate should be respectful to both the deceased and the family of the departed.
CNA Training Guidelines: During post mortem care, follow these rules of etiquette and behavior.
- Watch Your Words – Many hospitals and nursing homes only have a thin curtain separating you from other patients or residents, family members, and those passing in the hallway. Keep any discussion proper and respectful.
- Keep it To Yourself- Many CNA training graduates attempt to comfort grieving family members by sharing their own personal experiences and stories of death in their families. This is not the time to share though. The family of the departed will need to deal with the death of their loved one in their own way. Be comforting, but don’t push your own experiences on them. Give them the opportunity to react to the dying process.
- Be Discreet- Is the family going to be coming back into the room when you are finished with post mortem care? If so, clean up all unneeded medical waste and remove it from the room. If you are responsible for placing the departed in a body bag after the family has had the opportunity to say their goodbyes, don’t leave it sitting out. Put it in a drawer or cupboard in the room out of sight. Lower the lights in the room, if possible, so the room does not appear as stark.
- Keep Family Informed- During CNA training, you will learn that post mortem care can take about 30 minutes to accomplish if you have help from two or more individuals. This time can vary, though, depending on the amount of bodily fluids that need to be removed or cleaned. Let the family know about how long the process will take. If it takes longer than first thought, keep the family informed so they do not worry.
Post mortem care can be emotionally and spiritually difficult after CNA training, even for the most seasoned nursing assistant. No matter how difficult it is, though, you must always behave respectfully and properly during this process. Follow through on what you’ve learned during CNA training.
CNA Training & Careers