CNAs Everywhere: Why Do You Stay?

August 20th, 2014 by Linda Leekley in For CNAs, Good to Know!

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

Linda Leekley BS, RN

P.S. You can read Corey’s entire article here.

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A Long Term Care Hero!

March 5th, 2014 by Linda Leekley in For CNAs, Honoring CNAs

It’s wonderful to read inspiring articles about direct care workers…and this article by Lori Porter certainly fits the bill!  Lori is a former nursing assistant herself who went on to serve more than 30 years as a nursing home administrator.  She is also  the co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants.

Ms. Porter recalls the first hero she ever met working in long-term care, a CNA named Stella Parrish.  She viewed Stella as a hero for many reasons, especially because:

“She gave me an attitude adjustment that saved my career in long-term care — and this was back in the days before all the buzz words of “empowerment” and being positive. Stella schooled me well, explaining that she was tired of hearing me complain about everything. She told me the nursing home meant something to her and she would not allow me to make everyone miserable. She concluded with a request that if I could not stop complaining and inciting negativity among my co-workers that I leave. I did stop complaining and thanks to Stella, I became a better nursing assistant and a better person.”

We agree with Ms. Porter that there are CNAs who serve as role models working throughout both acute and long term care.  As she says in her article, “You know who they are — the ones who pack a clean uniform in a bag and bring to work with them when there are winter storms approaching, the ones who agree to work that one last shift you don’t have covered, those you know have your back, bringing you information you need to know but that others may be afraid to tell you.”

Keep reading to find out what happened to Stella Parrish and what advice Ms. Porter gives to those who supervise direct care workers.  We think she’s right on the money!  And, thank you to all the “Stella Parrish’s” out there who serve as role models, embodying all it means to be a professional certified nursing assistant!

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Making a Difference as a CNA

June 28th, 2012 by admin in For CNAs, Honoring CNAs

Martha Sloane, a certified nursing assistant at Fairview Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, shared her thoughts with us about her CNA career and why she loves her job so much. Here’s what Martha had to say:

Four days a week, I drive to a my job on Unit II at Fairview Commons. As I head to work, I anticipate the varied needs of my residents. I drive with a feeling of hope — that I will be able to make a difference in a resident’s life for that day, bringing them comfort, perhaps some laughter and, most of all, thorough and careful nursing care.

The unit I work on consists of a wonderful team of men and women. Their ages range from 20 to 60. You might think the age gap would make it difficult for us to work together.  But that’s not the case!  We work as a real team.  Each CNA has a group for which they are responsible in addition to working with other CNAs when they need assistance. Because we know each other well enough we are able to arrange work according to each of our strengths and weaknesses.  And, we share our knowledge and skills for resident care with each other.

My work as a CNA is tough – no doubt about it.  It is non-stop from the time my shift begins.  My job requires a great deal of physical and mental strength and excellent interpersonal skills:

  • Physical because of the type of care required which means lots of resident lifting.
  • Mental because of the variety of residents’ personalities and ailments and being alert to new symptoms a resident might express or that we notice.
  • Interpersonal because I spend time reassuring each resident they are important and showing them that I am happy to see them.

Most of all, my job means providing good nursing care to each resident for whom I am responsible.

I work with some great nurses. They look out for resident safety and the safety of the us CNAs.  They look, listen and investigate concerns that my fellow CNAs and I express about a resident’s condition and they assist us with procedures when we need an extra pair of hands or some reassurance.

What a good feeling it is to go home at the end of my shift and know I have made a difference in someone’s life, provided good care, perhaps shared a laugh or two or simply spent some time with residents holding their hands to assure them I am there for them!

Fairview Commons is an affiliate of Berkshire Healthcare Systems, the largest non-profit, post-acute care company in Massachusetts. Fairview Commons employees enjoy enhanced education and training opportunities and clearly defined paths for growth and development.

If you are interested in working with great people like Martha Sloane, please send your resume and cover note to: ddufur@bhs1.org

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A Great NY Times Article about CNAs

July 28th, 2010 by Linda Leekley in Good to Know!

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.

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