According to the NNCNA website: “The annual observance of Career Nursing Assistants’ Day and Nursing Assistants’ Week began in Ohio in 1977 as the Ten Year Club, and expanded nationwide by request in 1985. Since that time, this popular nursing assistant recognition program has grown to include thousands of facilities and organizations joining together each year to recognize and honor nursing assistants in long-term care services.”
NNCNA Founder and Director, Genevieve Gipson (“Jeni”) tells us that there was a time when caregivers weren’t even referred to as nursing assistants or nurse’s aides, but simply as “the help.” According to Jeni, caregivers “lacked any kind of training, identity, or recognition” and the organization was established to help provide all three.
In a 1977 meeting of the Nursing Assistants’ Representatives Committee of NE Ohio under Jeni’s direction, the issue of an appropriate title for caregivers was discussed. “As we were struggling to come up with a suitable title for the job, a caregiver interjected: ‘But, Jeni, to me this is not just my job – this is my career.’ And we all thought the word ‘career’ should absolutely be in the title.”
Thus the first CNAs: “Career Nursing Assistants.”
There are those who reject the idea of a “career” nursing assistant. They regard caregiving as nothing but an entry level position, a stepping stone on a career path that leads to positions requiring advanced education and ever greater responsibility, pay and prestige. It can be that, of course. Working as a caregiver can provide invaluable experience and insight that can serve those who choose an “upward” career path for their entire lives. It is often said by caregivers that the best RNs worked as CNAs.
But, there are those who do choose direct care work as their career. The Long Term Care system and the residents who are served by LTC benefit a great deal by those who make that choice. In a system beset by chronic high turnover rates of direct care staff and is now threatened by a looming staffing shortage crisis, career caregivers provide continuity of care and the kind of leadership so desperately needed in the trenches of Long Term Care.
Despite their value, career caregivers continue to suffer from low pay, inadequate training, and a lack of real support. Long Term Care needs to do a better job at investing in these remarkable workers.
It is right that we take a day to recognize the value of these deserving workers and honor them for their contributions.
To help celebrate National Career Nursing Assistants Day and Nursing Assistants Week, CNA Edge is offering a free download now through Saturday of our book CNA Edge: Reflections from Year One. The book is a collection of over 80 essays about Long Term Care written from the perspective of CNAs. For Kindle Unlimited Subscribers go to: CNA Edge: Reflections from Year One. Or, to get the book in a PDF via email, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Request Year One” in the subject line.
For more on the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and NAWeek go to:cna-network.org