As a nurse, I know firsthand how hard CNAs work and how much they mean to a healthcare team. As one CNA put it, in addition to being the eyes and ears of the nurses, a nursing assistant’s work is “a mixture of janitor, maid, entertainer, family member, and forklift.”
Entry-level CNAs are lucky to make $12/hour. Devoted CNAs who stick with the job for decades, despite the low pay and high stress, may make $17/hour! As baby boomers like me get older, the demand for nursing assistants will skyrocket. Yet, there is already a shortage…and the average annual turnover rate for nursing assistants is 71%! Thankfully, there is that 29% of CNAs who remain on the job. One of those long term care heroes is Corey Anne Rotella, CNA. Recently, Corey shared some thoughts about this issue on the blog for In the Know:
“Anyone working as a nursing assistant has chosen a very challenging path. Poor compensation, workplace politics, short staffing, conflict between coworkers, irate and difficult residents, miscommunication, heavy lifting and the loss of those for whom we care all make for a tough work environment. I definitely have lock-myself-in-the-linen-closet-to-get-myself-together moments. And, I have my weepfest-over-a-pint-of-Ben-and-Jerry’s-ice-cream days. So, why do I keep coming back? Why do I stay?
First of all, I embrace the challenge. I thrive on it. In my life, it is a rare and beautiful thing to be able to bring order to chaos rather than the other way around.”
Corey goes on to say that she is grateful for the life lessons she has learned from working in a healthcare organization. She recognizes the impact her work has had on her ability to communicate with others and to resolve conflicts. But even more important to Corey is what she has learned from her residents:
“They inspire me every day. To live with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, cancer or dementia and still laugh and love and find joy is nothing short of amazing. It’s such an incredible gift to be a part of their lives…to walk them through the tough days and celebrate with them during their triumphs. They have shown me the uselessness of the word ‘impossible.’”
My guess is that many other nursing assistants feel the same way. It’s their residents, patients or clients who keep them coming back, day after day. We’d love to hear directly from you, though, so please–CNAs everywhere–share your comments about why YOU stay.
And, as always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do!!
Linda Leekley BS, RN
P.S. You can read Corey’s entire article here.
Have you heard about the upcoming HBO documentary, PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: THE LIFE & TIMES OF KATRINA GILBERT? Here’s an excerpt for the synopsis on HBO:
“Filmed over the course of one year in Chattanooga, Tenn., PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK follows Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old mother of three who works as a certified nursing assistant in an extended-care facility while striving to address her own health-care issues. Overworked, underpaid, uninsured and lacking support, she chooses daily between purchasing her own medication and paying for the needs of her three children, which often leaves her struggling to make ends meet.
Despite these obstacles, Gilbert works to better her circumstances, applying for college courses that could raise her income. But circumstances often leave her slipping backwards, wondering if she will ever truly be able to get ahead.”
PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK debuts MONDAY, MARCH 17 (9:00-10:15 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
If you don’t get HBO, the film will be available to view online for FREE from March 17th – 24th on hbo.com, ShriverReport.org and youtube.com.
Please watch this important documentary and let us know what you think!
Working in the healthcare environment is unlike any other professional situation you will ever encounter. The medical field is stressful, fast paced, competitive, highly technical and constantly evolving. And, because human lives are at stake, those of us in healthcare shoulder a heavy responsibility. When all these factors combine, workers tend to feel powerless, stressed out, depressed and even angry. People who feel powerless and angry are more likely to assert misguided power by abusing others. That’s one reason why many healthcare environments are plagued by hostility, gossip, bullying and unhealthy competition—leading to a widespread culture of incivility.
Sadly, civility has been overlooked and undervalued for far too long among healthcare professionals—but now the secret is out. Studies have proven that a lack of workplace civility adds to medical errors, poor patient satisfaction, higher employee turnover, stress, burnout, bullying and higher healthcare costs for consumers.
Since the Joint Commission issued a statement on incivility and disruptive behaviors in 2009, survey after survey has revealed that nearly all healthcare workers have either witnessed or been the victim of incivility. While a small percentage filed costly lawsuits, the majority did nothing to report or resolve the matter. Why? Because that’s just the way things have always been.
We believe that the cyclical “shortage” of healthcare workers may, in fact, be a shortage of workers willing to work under these conditions—and we want to inspire you to make some changes.
Civility is the REAL healthcare reform our industry needs! Civility training in healthcare settings has the potential to improve patient care, strengthen team relationships and create an atmosphere that energizes and inspires those who are in it. Healthcare professionals who embrace civility are less likely to quit or “job hop,” and are less likely to burn out, bully or “eat their young!”So, if you feel burned out, beaten up, disrespected or just plain discouraged about your job in healthcare, this book is for you.
Whether you are a nurse, a CNA, a therapist, a social worker or some other member of the healthcare team, we are glad you have chosen a career in healthcare—and we want you to STAY!
Whether you are just entering the healthcare field or you’ve been providing healthcare services for years, a new book, The Real Healthcare Reform: How Embracing Civility Can Beat Back Burnout and Revive Your Healthcare Career, offers an easy to follow, step-by-step guide to changing your outlook, improving your professional relationships, and brightening your future in healthcare.
Whether you’d like to implement a full scale civility training program at your workplace or simply learn some strategies to improve your own professional outlook, The REAL Healthcare Reform provides the step-by-step action plan you need to put civility to work and resolve the toxic atmosphere that pollutes your workplace.
Pre-order your copy of The REAL Healthcare Reform today from the publisher, In the Know, or from Amazon. Your copy will ship by May 10th. To pre-order multiple copies (at a discounted rate) for your organization, please call us at 877-809-5515.
Tags: civility training, CNAs, culture of incivility, healthcare reform, healthcare workers, job burnout, nurses, professional relationships, The Joint Commission, workplace bullying, workplace incivility
Yesterday, the New York Times posted an article on its website entitled One Way to Judge a Nursing Home. So, what’s that “one way’? It involves talking to the nursing assistants at the nursing home and finding out how long they have been on staff.
The author of the article, Dale Russakoff, describes her experience of searching for a nursing home for her mother. Here is some of what she has to say:
“In casual conversations in hallways and dining rooms at more than a dozen facilities, I found only one nurses’ aide who had been on the job more than six months. I was witnessing in real life one of the most dismal statistics in long-term care: More than 70 percent of nurses’ aides, or certified nursing assistants, change jobs in a given year.”
In studying the issue of CNA turnover, Ms. Russakoff came face to face with the ugly truth:
“Researchers have found that high turnover in a facility corresponds with poor quality of care — more bedsores and more use of restraints, catheters and mood-altering drugs. That is, more reliance on medicine and technology, less on relationships.
In nursing homes with high turnover rates, certified nursing assistants tend to leave within three months, often because of inadequate training and support to juggle multiple frail, ailing residents at a time, according to Robyn Stone, senior vice president for research at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Once aides leave, everyone else must pick up their caseloads, and the stress of the job rises.”
Ms. Russakoff did find a nursing home where a number of the nurse aides were long time employees…and this is where her mother lived until her death. One particular nursing assistant was especially memorable:
“Ericka Dickens had been there for nine years when she became my mother’s aide. She had the patience and experience to navigate my mother’s stormy moods as her dementia worsened, to notice immediately when she was feeling weak or sick. Sometimes I would arrive in the early morning to find Ms. Dickens sitting beside my mother, holding her hand and talking to her.
I asked [Ericka] what made her want to stay in the job all these years. She said she always felt respected and supported, but the anchor for her and others is the bond with residents.”
You can read the complete article here.
The other day, I found a great essay written by Mark Laughlin for the online magazine, Smile Politely. It’s obvious that Mark has a great appreciation for nursing assistants and understands their importance to our health care system. Here’s some of what Mark had to say:
- Nursing assistants come in all shapes and sizes. They are both male and female. Their physical appearances are different, but they all have bodies that withstand the punishing nature of the work.
- They do a lot of stuff that isn’t really in the job description. They arrange the Hallmark cards next to the bed, dial the phone for residents who can’t do it themselves and clean out the whiskers that are clogging the blades of the electric razor.
- In short, nursing assistants help people who can’t completely help themselves. A nursing assistant can be the functioning arms of a quadriplegic, the eyesight of a person who is blind, the voice of someone who cannot talk.
- Nursing assistants don’t just work with their patients and residents—they pretty much live with them, 40 hours a week, sometimes for decades—until the patient or resident is discharged or dies. Want to know if a resident prefers angel food or chocolate cake? What television shows they watch on Tuesday nights? How many socks they have in their bottom dresser drawer? Ask the nursing assistant.
- Nursing assistants have a tough, dirty job. They are often verbally abused by the residents they take care of. This happens especially in nursing homes, where residents are often angry and no longer willing or able to be polite.
- Nursing assistants have to deal with the most intimate and disgusting bodily functions of their residents—they change diapers, clean up vomit, etc. Residents do sudden and shocking things. Nursing assistants get bit—literally. That kind of stuff pushes your buttons, but a good nursing assistant deals with all of the above without losing their temper and does what is best for their residents at all times.
- Nursing assistant work is generally viewed as not being highly-skilled. In a sense, this is true. It doesn’t take as long to learn how to operate a Hoyer lift as it does to learn a new computer programming language, for example. But being a good nursing assistant is more than just a set of skills—it’s a gift.
- A good nursing assistant has a capacity for caring that can’t be taught; some people have it, and some people don’t. For instance, a nursing assistant might have a non-ambulatory resident with developmental disabilities who is showered lying down on a gurney and always gets upset when the water hits him. So, the nursing assistant tries different things and finally discovers that singing to the resident calms him down. She even figures out what songs he likes best. Then, she sings to him every shift—for years. She doesn’t just sing because it’s easier and safer to shower the resident when he’s calm. She doesn’t do it because she’s being watched for her performance evaluation. She does it because she’s like that—because she cares.
- A good nursing assistant is a hero.
Thank you, Mark, for your insightful essay (which can be read in its entirety here).
Dawn Mazzola is a certified nursing assistant at a nursing/rehab facility. She finds working with the elderly to be a very rewarding job, yet sometimes she feels her job goes overlooked. One day after a long shift, she came home and wrote about being a CNA.
“Only” a CNA?
Who are you to refer to us,
As “Only” a CNA?
We’re the ones who wash and dress
Our patients for the day.
We’re the ones who take the time
To listen to them speak.
We listen about their lifetime,
In a forty hour week.
We also give our hands to hold
When someone’s feeling scared.
It’s not easy being a patient,
You’re never quite prepared.
We take the time to listen,
By lending both our ears.
We listen to their worries,
Or how they’ve spent their years.
Our arms were made to reach,
And even wrap around.
To give our patients hugs,
When they’re feeling a little down.
We help our patients do the things,
They used to do on their own.
Everybody needs some help,
Even when we’re grown.
So who are you to refer to us,
As “only” a CNA?
We do our best to meet their needs,
Within our working day.
We chose to do this job,
The job did not choose us.
We sympathize and empathize,
Compassion is a must.
We try to keep them comfortable,
And free of any fear.
We sit along beside them,
When that time is near.
We hold their hand, stroke their hair,
Just making sure they know.
They’re not alone, an aide is there,
It’s ok for them to go.
To all the CNAs keep your head held high,
We’re not “only” CNAs.
WE’RE ANGELS IN DISGUISE!!
Source: FamilyFriendPoems website
PHI is a great organization that has worked hard to improve working conditions, pay and benefits for the direct care workforce. If you would like to help them in their effort to change state and national policies, please check out their PHIPolicyWorks website.
And, as always, thanks so much to all the direct care workers across the U.S. and beyond!
Do you remember the 1998 movie, Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams starred as a doctor who wanted to bring humor and humanity to his treatment of patients? That movie was based on the life of the real Patch Adams, founder and director of the Gesundheit Institute and author of two books, including House Calls.
House Calls is a great read for anyone who believes that joy, laughter and kindness have an impact on health. As Robin Williams writes in the introduction, “…read this book. It’s filled with good, honest, common sense. Even if you are not ill, this book offers positive ways to lead life.”
Here are some excerpts from House Calls, examples of the heartfelt advice from Dr. Patch Adams. In my opinion, it is what the best nursing assistants already do for their patients!
“Nature is powerful medicine. Never let yourself get bored with nature. Appreciate every tree, bird, or sunset. Feeling the miracle of life through interaction with nature can be essential for your good health. Pets and gardens have been found to be beneficial for health. Watching a fish tank and listening to moving water have both been shown to lower blood pressure.”
“When in doubt, relax. Be cool. Don’t worry, be happy. Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. Think sweet thoughts. Think of your blessings. Hang loose. Melt in the presence of your friends. Pray, sing and make weird noises. Laugh for long periods of time. Hug for a long time. Get and give massages. Give up guilt, hate, duty, sacrifice, boredom, loneliness, fear, judgment and formality. Plop down on a big pillow. Say nice things to yourself and to others.”
“Fun (humor in action) and the accompanying laughter bring great medicine into the hospital room. Studies show that laughter relieves pain, relaxes stress and stimulates the immune system. For many people, the humor can come through stories of their past or present that show the funny sides of life.”
“Do not presume that if the illness is serious you have to remain solemn. I remember a young man who had cancer that killed him in his twenties. He told me how disturbing it was to constantly have people around him treat him as if he were already dead. Friends could not see the cancer in perspective enough to treat him as a regular living person. People are always so much bigger than their illness.”
“I suggest that whatever you bring to patients to enhance their healing and cheer them up, you can also share with everyone you meet. Each one of us can contribute toward creating a healthier society. It is well documented that helping others benefits one’s own health (physically, mentally and spiritually). And you don’t have to give up anything in order to help others. Giving to others is really a gigantic gift to yourself.”