Each year, the third week of June is a time to recognize and honor the work of certified nursing assistants with CNA Week. Celebrated this year from June 15 to 23, the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA) sponsors the week and helps draw attention to the vital work certified nursing assistants do.
According to the NAHCA, nearly one million CNAs are in the workforce. Primarily working with elderly patients and those with disabilities, CNAs work in skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, and staffing and home health agencies. Certified nursing assistants also provide vital work in hospice and hospital facilities.
This year’s CNA Week theme is “We’re Unstoppable” to show how the work of CNAs provides a solid foundation of essential care for an often-frail patient population that requires hands-on direct health care and for many activities of daily living.
Since 1995, the NAHCA has advocated for CNAs and for the people they care for. The organization helps promote this professional career path as one that is meaningful and particularly satisfying for certified nursing assistants who value building lasting relationships with those they care for. Because many CNAs remain committed to a lifelong career as a CNA, the organization also promotes continuing education for CNAs, better workplace conditions through recognition, education, advocacy, and motivation.
To help ensure the success of CNAs and the highest quality of caregiving, the NAHCA advocates for CNAs by working closely with healthcare providers and the long-term care facilities where many CNAs work.
CNAs work under the direct supervision of a nurse and so must learn how to advocate for themselves and for their patients. Communication skills are important for a CNA, whether it is for conveying patient information to a supervisor or in working with a patient or family members. Because CNAs work so closely with patients, they are excellent at noticing concerning changes in a patient or in hearing about family or caregiver concerns. They can observe any fluctuations in movement, speech, eating patterns, or mood because they are around patients as they perform tasks to help them with bathing, eating, moving, or taking medication. CNAs may also use technology to help record healthcare details or to chart tasks or patient changes.
And CNAs often develop close relationships with patients because of the routine they provide. Their schedule might allow them to see the same patients for breakfast every day, for example, and they can talk about how the night went or what they need for the day. Frequently, CNAs in care facilities spend time talking with patients, listening to their stories, and being a comforting presence that is especially welcome.
If you are a CNA or have CNAs on your team, take time this week to appreciate all this role brings to the healthcare team.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Nursing Assistants Week and brings with it a great time for healthcare teams to reflect on how all the members of a team help it run smoothly.
This year’s theme for National Nursing Assistants Week is “Specialists in the Art of Caring,” and the theme is one that resonates with nursing assistants. Nursing assistants are essential members of the team and often work especially closely with patients who are disabled or elderly and live in long-term care facilities or are in rehabilitation facilities. They often spend their days caring for patients who may have very limited mobility or have severe dementia or other conditions that may prevent them from performing tasks for themselves. The hands-on care they provide helps people feel better and also provides the comfort of companionship.
Many nursing assistants are so devoted to the caregiving role that they will become certified in their field. The National Association for Health Care Assistants is also joining in the celebration by honoring certified nursing assistants who have taken the extra step toward professional development and education to become certified.
With nearly 1.5 million nursing assistants in the national workforce, the field is one that is growing and in need of additional professionals. With a high school diploma, prospective nursing assistants can gain additional training and certification through many local sources including community colleges and often the Red Cross. Nursing assistants have a physically demanding workload. They frequently move people all day long and so have to be especially careful about proper movement, getting help instead of hoping they can lift or move someone, and using available equipment to assist them in the physical tasks of the job.
Despite the rigor of the typical day, nursing assistants are especially devoted to the people in their care and strive to give them understanding and dignity at a time when they are especially vulnerable. The conversations they provide, even if they are one-sided at times, are an important and uplifting part of a patient’s day. Conversations about everything from the day’s weather to the political state of countries half a world away to comparing family traditions, all help take care of the whole patient, not just their physical needs.
This week is a time to call out the nursing assistants in your organization or on your team to thank them for the caring job they are doing. They are an essential part of making a team run, and because of what they do, the licensed nurses and physicians are able to take care of the pressing medical needs of the patient better, knowing the patient is comfortable and their needs have been met.
Honor this important direct care role by saying thank you to the nursing assistants in your organization and by holding events throughout the week to let them feel appreciated. Flowers, gift cards, a surprise coffee and cake or unexpected refreshments for them, and signs marking the week help make the week special, but can also start some important conversations about the essential teamwork and high-quality caregiving that goes on thanks to this important role.
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