75 caregivers currently work with Right at Home to provide in home care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults in Norfolk, Bristol and Lower Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts. 40% of them are certified nursing assistants (CNAs), 50% of them are home health aides (HHAs) and 10% of them are personal care assistants (PCAs).
Before my husband Jim and I opened our Right at Home office in Foxboro, I had worked as a CNA at the emergency room of Norwood Hospital. The fast-paced ER work included transporting patients for diagnostic tests, cleaning patients and restocking rooms.
Having worked as both a CNA and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) myself, I understand that caregivers have one of the most challenging healthcare jobs. So whenever I hear someone says, “Oh, I’m just an aide,” I am always quick to tell them how important they are in helping our elders maintain independence and continue to enjoy a lifestyle they love.
Over the years, I have seen and heard many misconceptions about CNAs. Here are a few I would like to help debunk:
- “You’re in a low-level job and do little work.” As a CNA, you have to love people and you have to want to help people. Although a CNA is not the highest-paid position in the healthcare field, CNAs are really there to work with people at their worst moments and to try make things better for them. The work is more fulfilling and rewarding than monetary.
- “You become a CNA because you can’t become a nurse.” People often choose to be a CNA to serve others. It’s not because they tried and failed nursing school. CNA applicants must have a GED or high school diploma before starting specific CNA classroom and clinical training. Depending on state requirements, the CNA student completes an 8- to 16-week course to earn a CNA certification.
- “CNA, HHA and PCA are just different names for caregivers; they all do the same thing.” A CNA focuses more on the medical aspect in caregiving. A personal care attendant (PCA) or home health aide (HHA) concentrates more on the tasks for home management, such as cooking, basic household upkeep (homemaking or providing transportation services) and running errands (e.g. doing grocery shopping) .
- “You basically clean up people when they vomit or soil themselves.” CNAs are involved in the direct care of individuals, including bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, and reporting observations of a care client’s physical symptoms and behavior. Assisting with personal hygiene is only a small part of a CNA’s work.
- “Working in private homes means that you are just sitting around with the seniors a lot.” Not true. CNAs who work in private homes handle the day-to-day care, they are the eyes and ears. There’s a lot of coordination with the family members, nurses and physicians. They work to make sure clients can age in place right at home.
- “You are a nurse and responsible for ongoing care decisions.” CNAs are not nurses and remain under the ongoing supervision of licensed practical nurses or registered nurses. CNAs assist nurses and physicians who are legally responsible for the medical care of their patients.
Pros and Cons of Being a CNA
|Flexible work hours. The work also allows for learning the ropes and further study to pursue a nursing license or degree.||The workload of each care shift can vary depending on the client’s health condition and care needs no matter where—hospital, care facility or private home—you work.|
|From a training perspective, the attendants, aides and CNAs can start a new career in a relative short amount of time (8- to 16-week depending on state requirements).|