CNA week is quickly approaching, which means it is time to celebrate these hardworking but often underappreciated professionals. But first, let’s discuss the role and responsibilities of a CNA and why they are so important in healthcare, particularly in long term care.
Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, work in several healthcare settings, such as long term care facilities, hospitals, assisted living, and nursing homes. While a CNA is considered an entry-level position, that does not diminish their importance, as they play a critical role in patient care and tending to patients’ or residents’ immediate and daily needs under the supervision of a nurse. Furthermore, the role of a CNA is a stepping stone to other healthcare professions, with many trainee nurses often working as CNAs during their studies to gain valuable hands-on experience.
The responsibilities of a CNA will vary depending on the type of healthcare provider. For instance, in a long term care facility, some of the most common CNA responsibilities include:
- Turning or moving residents
- Assisting residents with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as bathing, feeding, grooming, and dressing
- Gathering medical supplies
- Checking the resident’s vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate
- Accurately documenting resident information into the facility’s long term care software
- Depending on the level of training, a CNA may assist nurses and physicians with some medical procedures, such as wound care
- Ensuring the facility’s health and safety procedures are met
When Is CNA Week?
The CNA profession dates back to the First World War, when approximately 8,000 nurses were deployed under the Red Cross Program. Serving alongside U.S Army nurses, the Red Cross nurses helped treat wounded soldiers and assisted with acute care on the base, in the field, and civilian hospitals. Working tirelessly to aid the war effort, they established themselves as worthy advocates who helped American soldiers considerably in their recovery.
To honor these dedicated individuals, CNA week was first launched in 1977. So when is CNA week in 2022? CNA week, also known as the National Nursing Assistants Week, is celebrated annually on the second whole week of June, starting on a Thursday. This year will be the 45th Annual National Nursing Assistants Week, celebrated from June 16th – 22nd.
CNA week is a special time to thank CNAs for their hard work and effort. Time and again, CNAs have proven their selflessness, strength, and perseverance by putting their patients or residents first. Recently, this has become more apparent than ever. A post-COVID pandemic study from the LeadingAge, LTTS Center in Boston on CNAs who worked in a long term care facility during the pandemic found that CNAs worked under extreme hardships at home and at work throughout the pandemic.
CNAs continued their work and professionalism, despite serious risk, dedicating themselves fully to their residents and quality of care. They showed remarkable resilience and an impressive ability to learn while adapting and incorporating new protocols to the ever-changing situation despite being short-staffed, having inadequate PPE equipment, and facing changing protocols.
Of course, these challenges took their toll. A study published in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection found that 76% of CNAs reported feeling emotionally drained, with another 60% feeling regularly fatigued. Furthermore, because of a CNA’s low salary, 29% of CNAs have commented that they found it challenging to pay for their basic needs, such as food, rent, and gas, in the aftermath of the pandemic.
It is undeniable that the pandemic has impacted CNAs emotionally and financially, giving them a valid reason for leaving the long term care industry and further exacerbating the staffing crisis. Therefore, now more than ever is the time to promote and improve the well-being of CNAs, not only on a facility level but also nationally. Failure to do so will impact the future of long term care, the stability of the workforce, and the quality of care.
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5 Innovative Ideas for CNA Week
While there are many ideas for CNA week that facilities can adapt and show appreciation to their CNAs, sometimes the most effective way is to boost morale. Below, we will highlight five innovative ideas for CNA week that will shine a little light on a CNA’s shift.
1. Lighten the Mood With Fun CNA Games
A great way to kick off National Nursing Assistants Week is with some lighthearted games, such as setting up outdoor wheelchair races, organizing quizzes like a “which step is missing” quiz, or playing candy games.
Here’s a simple example: The administrator takes a bucket with two sides — one side is filled with chocolate — the other side is filled with grandma candy (hard-boiled sweets). The administrator will ask CNAs random questions like, “What are the valves that blood flows through in the heart?” If the CNA answers the question correctly—they will receive chocolate. If they answer incorrectly—they get a piece of grandma candy.
2. Organize Theme Days and Dress Up Days
Like other healthcare professions, CNAs wear scrubs on shift. So when is there a better time than CNA week for CNAs to come to work in fancy dress? You can give them a simple dress down day on CNA day or organize a theme day on which everyone dresses in accordance with a fun theme, like:
- Western Day
- Superhero Day
- Hawaiian Day
- Days celebrating the 60s, 70s, 80, or 90s
Another popular alternative theme is to have printed CNA t-shirts. These are usually customized with the facility name and a general team message, such as the organization’s values. When they are worn, they inform the residents of when is CNA week, so they can write letters of appreciation and thanks to the CNAs who care for them. In general, these t-shirts are popular among staff, who can then wear them instead of their scrubs later in the year.
3. Jazz Up Your Bulletin Board
CNAs, like everyone else, just want to be appreciated for their hard work and efforts. Therefore, the facility can speak to the residents and their families before CNA week and ask them to write letters of appreciation that can be displayed on the bulletin board during CNA week.
The alternative idea is to create a mash-up video with recordings of residents and leadership giving thanks to the CNAs on the National CNA Day. This video can be projected in the facility or posted on the facility’s social media outlets.
4. Arrange CNA Gifts and Meals
If the facility’s budget allows, the facility should organize gift cards for their CNAs. Some popular ideas for gift cards include massages, spa days, manicures, Amazon gift cards, or a gift card for their favorite coffee shop.
If, however, the facility’s budget is too small to purchase gift cards for all their CNAs, an alternative option is for the administrator to reach out to their partnership vendors, such as medical suppliers, hospice agencies, home health agencies, or food suppliers, and ask them to contribute towards CNA week. The vendors may provide food, gifts, bags, or even pay for a masseuse to come in so CNAs can have a treat during their breaks.
Of course, it is important to remember that CNAs work on rotational shifts. Therefore, administrators must not forget about the night shift CNAs who also need to be included in the week’s celebrations.
5. Career Growth
As mentioned earlier, a CNA is often a stepping-stone position for those who want to progress professionally. Therefore, an administrator can organize to have a motivational speaker or a career counselor come in and speak with the staff. This will allow them to see what opportunities they have for advancement and how they can accelerate their careers.
It is also common for long term care facilities to offer educational incentives. For example, the facility may be able to reimburse a percentage of the education costs of a CNA who decides to continue their education to become a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) so long as they return to the facility after completing their studies.
Celebrate CNA Week with More Awareness
CNA week or National Nursing Assistants Week celebrates the vital and supporting role that CNAs play in delivering assistance to seniors in long term care. In a long term care facility, it is the CNAs who are the primary caregivers. The CNAs interact daily with the residents and are often the eyes and ears on the ground for the nurses, LPNs, and physicians.
Even though one week a year is not enough time to truly celebrate all CNAs’ hard work, we have to start somewhere. This week of celebration should be used to thank CNAs for their dedication. Still, it should also draw society’s attention by presenting and informing the public about CNAs’ wonderful but unspoken contributions to the lives of their residents.
Only when the community understands a CNAs’ sacrifice, skill, and resilience will they be able to appreciate and understand the fundamental role that CNAs play as direct caregivers in long term care. Without them, the industry would not remain.
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