Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Celebrating Nurse Aides, CNA’s and Nursing Assistants

They go by several names. During my hospice volunteer rounds in Detroit, I tend to say “nurse aide,” maybe because it’s older and easier to pronounce. But no matter what they are called, they are called often, sometimes too often when there’s a staff shortage. They are generally first responders meeting patients’ needs. Patients frequently think of them first when they evaluate their nursing home experience.

These are two comments I have heard nurse aides express to me about their jobs:

1) “I love working here. It’s not perfect, but we try to work as a team. I treat my patients like they are my family. For some of them, I’m the only one they can really talk to about their true feelings. I know what I do matters.”

2) "This place is depressing. I usually have more patients than I’m supposed to, and nothing I do is enough. It’s low pay with high pressure, but I need the job. It’s not right the way nurse aides and patients are treated here. When I try to make suggestions, nobody listens. I’m really frustrated."

Like people, all nursing homes are not good, and all are not bad. But dedicated nurse aides, no matter where they are, do hard work for low pay and often with little appreciation. A work climate suffers greatly when large numbers of staff stay discontented. Nobody benefits from a negative environment.

Some serious problems that plague nursing homes will require major systemic reform at local, state and federal levels. But administrators of individual nursing homes with negative climates can initiate certain changes themselves by committing to basic reform in staff, patient and caregiver relationships. Welcoming constructive input from all stakeholders validates everyone. Oral or written words of appreciation, when deserved, can go a long way in healing trampled self-esteem. Ongoing opportunities to improve job skills encourage professionalism. An added benefit will be decreased staff turnover. When the word gets around, more nurse aides will choose a nursing home where they feel respected.

As former principal of an urban public school with a high poverty level for many years, I know that setting a positive tone, even under stressful conditions, is a good beginning in changing the culture of any institution. I celebrate everyone who is doing a fine job working in nursing homes, but this post especially celebrates nurse aides, CNA’s and nursing assistants. Cheers to you!

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog


  1. Great resource for healthcare professionals! Thanks for your insight. We are hoping to begin soliciting staff ideas and feedback through an intranet blog tool where staff can submit comments to facility information similar to the comment I am leaving right now.

  2. Thank you Francis. This is very upbeat and positive. I agree with you 100%= in order to effect change we cannot be negative or demeaning to those who can help us.

  3. I agree with Frances. In every productive healthcare environment, staff and administration work together as a team in order to ensure that patients are getting the best care possible.

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