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Billy Cunningham
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Nursing Assistant Survey Reveals Problems

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In the April 1, 2009 issue of The Gerontologist published a survey study about Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs). 3,017 CNAs were surveyed in 2004 and 2005 abut recruitment, education, training and licensure, job history, family life, management and supervision, client relations, organizational commitment , job satisfaction, work place environment, work place injuries, and demographics. The survey revealed that one in three CNAs receive some kind of means-tested public assistance. More than 50% of them had incurred a work related injury in the immediate preceding year and almost 25% were unable to work for at least one day due to a work related injury. 42% of the uninsured CNAs did not participate in their employers’ health insurance plan because they could not afford it. The survey also revealed that years of experience do not relate to higher wages as those who hd ten or more years experience only earned about $2 more per hour than aides in the field for less than one year.

Shocking! No wonder there is such a huge turnover of nursing aides. The direct care of approximately 1,500,000 nursing home residents rely on CNAs for their primary care. Care that requires qualified, well trained and experienced care givers. As the article notes, CNAs engage in work that is physically and emotionally demanding and juggle multiple work and family responsibilities. Yet they earn just a little more than minimum wages.

Findings from the survey will allow policy makers to assess and plan for sustainable solutions to stabilize the CNA nursing home workforce. The survey resulted in a huge database that can be used to determine the problems and help find solutions to create priorities that policy makers can use to address factors to help stabilize the CAN workforce. The work force issues facing the CNAs and the challenges to not only improve their professional lives but to also improve the care they provide should be enhanced by this study. However, that can only happen if the employers take advantage this information. The authors expect the results to figure prominently in federal and state labor, health and welfare policy discussions on expanding the pool of nursing assistants and on reimbursement policy, regulation policy and program design.

Those attorney who represent family members in nursing home abuse cases often encounter dedicated CNAs who do all they can to provide good care. A common theme that is heard is that there is not enough time to provide that care to the multitude of residents they are assigned. Most of these CNAs go into this work because they want to help, but become overwhelmed and a number of them leave for jobs that are easier and pay about the same. That is a shame when there is such a need. Let’s hope this survey and its report will be another step in improving care.