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.
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.