Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are some of the most important members of the nursing care team. Not only are they responsible for most of the day-to-day patient interactions, but their role is cited as critical in terms of quality care. Overall, the job outlook in the field is excellent. By 2050, the number of Americans needing skilled nursing care is expected to double. The Department of Labor estimates job growth for CNAs will rise by at least 20 percent in the next decade, and significant shortages have already been noted in the field.
Staff Turnover Rates
But even as the role of CNAs is becoming more important, significant problems related to job satisfaction have been noted. Nationally, staff turnover rates actually exceed 100 percent. (This high statistic is possible if a worker leaves and is replaced by another worker who also leaves prior to completing a full year of employment.) This constant turnover is demoralizing and erodes patient care. CNAs who leave cite two key problems: low compensation (on average $24,000 a year) and high staff-to-client ratios, which leads to burnout.
Despite these problems, there is evidence that CNAs actually like their work. Researchers from The Center for Health and Care Work (CHCW) at the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, have found that overall job satisfaction rates are quite high. Most survey respondents, 82 percent, reported that they look forward to going to work and 80 percent said they feel loyalty towards their job. In fact, 90 percent of respondents reported that they feel as though their work is important and that it “makes the world a better place.”
Factors that Influence Job Satisfaction
How can job satisfaction be high when staff turnover rates are also high? It appears as though some work environments are more conducive to job satisfaction than others. Facilities that provide a responsive and supportive work environment report high job satisfaction rates and significantly improved job retention rates. Virginia’s Gold Quality Improvement Program, which has worked to address CNA concerns, highlights several factors that promote overall job satisfaction:
1. The clinical team must view the role of the CNA as important. They should encourage CNAs to feel included, emphasize teamwork, and develop open lines of communication. At the administrative level, the CNA’s work should be acknowledged and routinely rewarded.
2. New CNAs should be provided a quality orientation not just to the facility but to the requirements of patient care. Some of the best programs include peer mentoring, substantive training, and ongoing support.
3. Smaller staff-to-patient ratios have repeatedly been linked to overall job satisfaction. When CNAs are allowed to spend quality time with their patients, CNAs are not only more satisfied, but their overall job performance improves.
4. Facilities should emphasize both personal and professional growth. Work environments that offer advanced nursing assistant training and regular in-service programs increase overall job satisfaction.
On the surface, none of this research is surprising. CNAs want to spend time with their patients, develop therapeutic relationships, and provide quality care. Moreover, they want to be respected as members of a team, capable of both expertise and insight. When these conditions are met, job satisfaction is high.
Raymond Fletcher writes on the medical profession, medicine, health and fitness, medical education, medical technology and other relevant topics; those interested in possibly joining the medical profession should consider Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) as a career trajectory.
Image credit goes to Studies in Solitude.