A Post in Praise of CNAs and More Staffing
At the frontline of nursing home care, you will find trained and dedicated professionals ranging from nurse and doctors to recreation coordinators and dining assistants. It can be argued, however, that none of these are as underappreciated as the certified nursing assistant, or CNA. No one handles the small day-to-day details quite like the CNAs in a building. Around the clock, our loved ones are being fed, bathed, and dressed by these men and women.
Given how difficult this job is, it should come as no surprise that maintaining staffing levels for such a position is no easy task, one that must be addressed at the highest levels of state law. A little over a year ago, NJ’s Assembly Human Services Committee passed legislature that mandated the following ratios be met by all elder care facilities:
- One certified nursing assistant for every six residents on the day shift;
- One certified nursing assistant for every nine residents on the evening shift; and
- One certified nursing assistant for every 14 residents on the night shift.
This law was only designed to create minimum staffing standards when it comes to certified nursing assistants. We have anecdotal knowledge from administrators of these facilities about the measures they must take to keep up with growing demand for these positions, and how difficult it is to hire them. Almost any nursing home you drive by will have a sign outside advertising to hire these workers. We know of at least one facility that actively recruits by sponsoring workers from foreign countries, paying housing costs for some employees, and opening a vocational school to train employees.
The alternative would be what some facilities face, which is having to hire nurses to do the same work! The work of a CNA is simply too difficult, for very little pay. The turnover rate is among the highest in any industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a CNA’s median salary has changed very little in the past few years, hovering around $25,000. Some reported salaries dip as low as $18,790. Yet, the BLS also predicts that employment in this field will grow 17% between now and 2024. Something here has to give – if there is a scarcity of CNAs already, where does the industry plan to get the additional workers?
In the end, higher quality of care is the shared goal of both the elder’s loved ones and caregivers. Studies consistently show that the key to achieving that goal is higher staffing levels. Nursing homes that attend to their staffing can boast the following for their residents:
- Lower mortality rates,
- Improved functioning,
- Less infections,
- Lower hospitalization rates and
- An overall improvement in quality of life.
A nursing home’s staffing practices are of the utmost concern to elder care attorneys and their clients. We feel we must remain up to date regarding the state of a profession like the certified nursing assistant because that will be the person we decided to entrust your loved one with. A CNA, stressed due to understaffing, may end up rushing or become hasty with his or her duties. Elders are known to lose sleep, refuse to eat, grow depressed or become generally combative. It is our position that facilities must work to create environments that encourage potential CNAs to enter the market, and offer them competitive compensation, a supportive work environment, and opportunities for career advancement. Our goal at the firm is to assist you in selecting nursing homes that do not allow their CNAs to become frustrated and burnt out. Put simply, happy CNAs and happy work environments lead to better health outcomes for your loved ones.
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