CNA Skill: How to Dress a Patient with an Affected Arm

Of all the CNA skills, dressing patients with an affected arm is one of the longest in terms of steps to remember. This is also a skill that requires a lot of trust between the CNA and the patient. Performing these steps properly can help the patient feel independent and safe in their environment, two critical aspects of doing your job properly. 

To learn all of the necessary steps for the affected arm dressing CNA skill, please watch this video demonstration. 

Dressing a Patient CNA skill procedure

  1. Perform the standard beginning tasks – knock before entering the patient’s room, greet the patient by name, introduce yourself, explain the task you are about to perform. It’s important that you let the patient know what you are going to do because they may not want to be dressed, which is their right.
  2. Follow the patient’s care plan, which will tell you which arm is weak if you cannot tell. 
  3. Ask the patient what they would like to wear. They may not have a preference, but it’s important to ask them as it is part of the patient’s rights. 
  4. Retrieve the article of clothing. When taking the CNA test, you will likely be working with a button-up shirt. 
  5. Place a towel or small sheet on the table that is big enough to fit all of the patient’s clothes. You will need this so you can place the patient’s clothing on it, with none of them touching the table to prevent them from getting dirty. 
  6. Close the privacy curtain before dressing the patient to make them comfortable and respect their rights. 
  7. Wash your hands as per the hand hygiene skill.
  8. When you dress the patient, put the bed in position easiest to change them. When adjusting the bed, make sure you inform the patient so you don’t startle them. 
  9. Place a privacy blanket on the patient so that their body is not exposed as they change. This provides privacy to make them comfortable and also helps keep them warm. 
  10. Unbutton the patient’s shirt while making sure their body is not overly exposed. 
  11. Remove the patient’s shirt beginning with the strong arm. This will provide for greater ease in removing the shirt and less discomfort for the patient as you have more flexibility in maneuvering the shirt around their weak arm. 
  12. LIft up the patient’s back to get the shirt to the other side of their body without having to aggressively pull it to the side of the weak arm.
  13. Remove the shirt completely off from the weak arm by sliding it off. This should be effortless at this point. 
  14. Begin putting the new shirt on the patient beginning with the weak arm. Put on the sleeve of the new shirt starting on the patient’s weak arm. Roll it up their arm gently to make it as comfortable as possible. 
  15. Lift up the patient’s back, as you did with removing the shirt, and slide the shirt to the other side gently so as to not pull on their affected arm. 
  16. Slide the sleeve gently up the patient’s strong arm. 
  17. Button up the shirt completely. 
  18. Place any dirty clothes and the barrier into the dirty clothes bin or hamper. 
  19. Now you can remove the privacy blanket as the patient is dressed.
  20. Make sure the patient is comfortable and happy with how the clothing fits. 
  21. Put the bed in the lowest position, before doing so, inform the patient so you do not startle them. 
  22. Make sure you give the patient their call light, open the privacy curtain, and perform your hand hygiene procedure. 

* Please be sure to consult the testing materials provided by the skills test provider in your state to ensure that these steps for how a CNA should dress a resident with a weak arm are in compliance. The procedure in different states and from different test providers can vary slightly and greatly affect your score.