Category Archives: recognizing CNAs

A Wide Movement


As I talk about CNA Edge more, there’s a question that keeps coming up: for whom am I writing? What is my target audience?

Whenever I’m asked, my initial reaction is always: “My audience is whoever reads it”.
But that’s a vague answer at best, and no answer at worst. There are some who tell me I should focus more on reaching policy-makers and people in positions of power. And I can follow their line of thinking and I agree with their points: there is a divide between direct care workers and those at the top. That divide hurts our residents, often badly. So yes, I would love to reach more policy-makers.
But not at the expense of also my reaching my fellow CNAs. To put it another way, I do not want to be the sole spokesperson for CNAs to policy-makers and administrators. 

Policies can change. Rules and regulations can be changed with administrations, and then swept away with the next changing wind of politics. I am not dismissing the importance of good policies and those who work so hard to affect change for long-term care. We need people fighting for good policies, and for responsible leadership. We also need people fighting to change the way CNAs think about themselves, to throw off the label of “nothing but an ass-wiper”. If I can do that, then I am not alone. One or even three CNAs speaking up can be ignored. We could even be silenced. How about one hundred CNAs? Or three hundred? How about a thousand, or a million?
That starts by letting CNAs everywhere know that they are not alone. Sometimes I think the worst affect of this broken system is that it makes people who work so closely with others feel utterly alone. We, who have the power to deeply impact the lives of our resident, are often made to feel helpless by all that we cannot change. We feel alone, helpless and burnt out. Silence and sullenness can and do follow.
But together and aloud…what can’t we achieve?
I do not ever want to talk over the heads of my fellow caregivers. I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that I am somehow more than they are, or that they are something less than me. If I am intelligent, compassionate and eloquent, that does not make me unique among caregivers. Actually, I’d argue that makes me about average. If I stand out, it’s only because I speak out.

What we need now is change, both on a personal level and on a larger cultural one. Compassion, common sense, communication and critical thinking have got to be infused into this broken system. We have to have people dedicated to change on every rung of the ladder…including the one belonging to CNAs.
Just like a democracy cannot function without the active participation of ordinary citizens, neither can our long-term care system function without a principled and vocal base of direct care workers. CNAs who are willing and able to speak up for themselves and their residents.

The First CNAs: Career Nursing Assistants

NAWeekToday is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. It is the first day of the 39th Annual Nursing Assistants Week, sponsored by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants.

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 with “Request Year One” in the subject line.

For more on the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and NAWeek go

National Nursing Assistants Week





Next week marks the 39th Annual National Nursing Assistants’ Week. “NAWeek” begins on June 9th with National Career Nursing Assistants’ Day – “a day to recognize nursing assistants who dedicated their lives to the well-being of others for 5 to 58 years” – and runs through June 16th. The theme of this year’s NAWeek is “I Choose Respect.”

NAWeek is sponsored by The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants. Longtime director of the NNCNA, Genevieve Gipson, has been advocating for direct care workers for over fifty years and is currently working with numerous National NA groups on legislation issues, promoting recognition of nursing assistants, education, research, and peer support development for nursing assistants in nursing homes and other long term care settings. We’re working to get Jeni to appear on CNA Edge as a guest contributor so that she can share her wisdom and insight with our readers and give us her take on NAWeek and the NNCNA.

Meanwhile, to help celebrate NAWeek, we will be offering a free download of the Kindle version of our book CNA Edge: Reflections from Year One from June 9th through June 12th. The book is a collection of over 80 essays originally published in 2014 as posts on this blog. We will post links here and on our Facebook page starting this coming Thursday.

For more information on NAWeek click here: National Nursing Assistants Week