CNAs. These positions are vital to our staffing models, partnering with registered nurses to take on certain ratios or acuity of patients. Nurses rely on CNAs to support their work efforts and to support quality patient care and customer service to patient and their families.
Where did they go?
Healthcare personnel make up one of the largest groups of skilled workers. During this time of Covid-19, CNAs, who innately are caretakers, may be taking care of their families. Or, they may be cautious in potentially exposing their significant others to Covid. And another consideration may be unemployment payments available to them could potentially be more than what they were making in a care facility, working intense and laborious hours. Now, with schools resuming across the country, many CNAs may need to be home supporting their child(ren) during this time.
What will the impact be on nursing?
Healthcare facilities across the US are scrambling to recruit these critical CNA personnel to their facilities. This is adding to the heavy burden placed on Registered Nurses in a Covid-19 world. Now, they have to manage higher patient loads, higher acuity and longer days without support staff. This inevitably will contribute to the already high burnout rate of the Registered Nurse.
What can we do?
Acuity is higher, ratios that were considered acceptable pre-pandemic cannot be maintained now. Registered rurses now have more patients; with higher acuity they are caring for Additionally, the patients and their families need more emotional support or discharge care, which the nurse needs to be afforded time to properly do. Considerations by healthcare organizations should include training new staff to become CNAs, flexible hours for CNAs to allow ability to care for family or to work with child(ren) for schooling. Healthcare facilities should also consider paying the CNA a higher wage. Another consideration could be to partner with nursing schools and offer work to the students on a per diem type basis. Or a healthcare facility can staff up with additional Registered Nurses.
If we do not act, we will face an even greater shortage of nurses in the coming years. Nurses will not stay in nursing and new nurses will not enter the workforce if we do not support our nurses now. And all the strides that have been made in the last years will be reversed. Regardless of the support and recognition given to our frontline workers — hailing them as “heroes” will be for naught.