This week we celebrate my favorite week of the year as we honor CNAs across this country for their service to our nation’s frail elderly and disabled. CNAs provide more than 90% of the direct patient care in post-acute and long term care centers across the country. I could go on and on about their sacrifice, their service, their commitment but everyone seems to say it over and over again.  

So, why is one of the chief complaints of CNAs not enough recognition? Caregivers are notorious for not recognizing themselves! It is impossible to make someone else feel valued and important no matter how many times they are told “you are amazing!” and “you are valued!” 

A person must know their own value. As we pay tribute to our women and men who serve on the frontline of long-term care, keep in mind that the best way to communicate how you feel about them and their service is to stop a CNA in action this week and look them in the eye and say, “I know I don’t say it enough, no one possibly could, but you matter and you are a valued part of this team!” Group praise is okay, but it just doesn’t get it done. To communicate how you truly feel, take an opportunity this week to sincerely thank a CNA.    

As I think back on my time of service as a nursing assistant, only a couple of people ever looked me in the eye and delivered a compliment. I have never forgotten them and any minor disciplines I might have received during that time has long faded from my memory. Maybe it was because there were too many to keep track of…LOL. But I remember the personal and direct praise I received. There is a lesson in there somewhere. 

One is that those of you who take the time to thank a CNA up close and personal will be a better person for it. Giving a one-on-one sincere compliment is so much harder for people than giving adisciplinary counseling. Seriously, it is something that most people find very hard to do and, oddly enough, most people find it very hard to accept a compliment!  What? Hard to give and hard to receive? Yes, but worth it. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a try.

It is often said, CNAs are special because they do a job other people can’t do. I believe CNAs are special because “they choose” to do a job other people “won’t do.” CNAs, this week shine a little brighter, walk a little taller and strut your stuff. I hope your week is packed with praise and recognition of your amazing service to your country! I know I have stood in awe of you for the past 34 years you cared for my grandmothers and you cared for my parents. They are all gone now, but just as I will always remember them, I shall always remember you.

Lori Porter is a former certified nursing aide and nursing home administrator with more than 30 years of experience in long-term care. She is co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, a professional association of and for nursing assistants. A nationally sought-after speaker on frontline caregiving issues, she also is the author of the book “Everything I Learned In Life I Learned in Long Term Care.”