This week, nearly 1 million certified nursing assistants across the nation have been celebrating National Nursing Home Week as they render their special care services to nearly 1.5 million residents living in skilled nursing centers.

Nearly 40,000 of those are members of the National Association of Health Care Assistants’ (NAHCA) CareForce, committed to their own personal and professional development. As NAHCA and Medline continue to develop and promote educational programs, more and more CNAs are making a commitment to continued learning. 

Since our partnership began two years ago, we have seen a measurable decline in turnover due to CNAs becoming certified preceptors and formal peer leaders. Centers investing in CNA development have become leaders in quality nationwide, understanding CNAs are positioned to have enormous influence on residents, their families, coworkers, quality outcomes, financial outcomes and a host of other challenges facing long term and post-acute care.

Residents and their families consider CNAs to be “their” experts.  With CNAs providing more than 90% of the direct patient care, of course they are looked at as experts. So, providers must ask themselves a few questions: “Do my CNAs see themselves as experts? Do I see my CNAs as experts? Do we as an organization invest in our CNAs because they are experts?” 

Unfortunately, I did not see myself as a professional or an expert for at least half of my years as a CNA and, therefore, made many mistakes.  

For the past 36 months, NAHCA has recorded member center data which reflects marked improvements in CNA job satisfaction, turnover reduction and a decrease in care deficiencies cited during annual surveys. The key to these successful outcomes is CNA motivation, CNA development and CNA recognition for professional achievements.

It is unprecedented to have the evaluations and data coming in from CNAs who are actively engaged in NAHCA’s Virtual Campus of Care (NVCC), Medline University and NAHCA’s comprehensive CNA leadership training program. 

What does all this have to do with National Nursing Home Week? My answer is easy. It has everything to do with it.

Nursing homes are improving every day in most every way. The pursuit for quality outcomes has never been stronger among all stakeholders and this year, those outcomes among CNA metrics equal excellence in resident care delivery. CNAs are coming to understand what is truly important to the residents. And the best way for them to improve the lives of the residents is to improve their own lives both personally and professionally.

Lip service regarding CNA importance is going by the wayside in favor of employers investing in their development. This nursing home week will be amazing as always but the future is bright and getting brighter as long term and post-acute care continue their pursuit to advance excellence together.

As always, I stand in awe of the women and men who serve our nation’s elders and wish the entire nursing home profession a wonderful week of celebrating who we are, what we do and how great we are at it! 

Lori Porter is a former certified nursing aide and nursing home administrator with more than 30 years’ 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.”