Certified nurse aides (CNAs) are crucial members of the long-term care system. They are also “ear and eye” of a facility and spend longest period with residents compared to other care providers.
Nurse Aides perform activities of daily livings and basic nursing care for elderly residents and people with disabilities and chronic illness in nursing homes, private homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centres. According to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) report, 80 percent of paid care and ADL activities received by the long-term care residents are delivered by the direct care workers.
Being the crucial member of a health care team and direct care provider, the demand for CNAs and other frontline care workers are also increasing rapidly in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of direct care workers will increase by 21 percent or 321,200 more workers will be required for direct care services by 2012 to 2022. The AAHSA report also informs that by 2016, 264,000 more nurse aides, attendants, and orderlies will be required to fill various positions.
The factors mainly responsible for the increased demand for frontline care workers in varied health care settings include population growth, retirements, rising aging population and increase in the chronically ill population. The health care reforms of the government have also increased the number of patients. Similarly, many new hospitals, nursing homes, and health care systems have come up, and they also require large number of direct care workers for nursing services. In addition, the shortages of nurse educators and low turnout of qualified nursing professionals from schools and colleges also play a role in inadequate supply and increase in demand for direct care workers for different positions.
However, the numbers of frontline care workers are not enough to meet the rising demand. The short-supply of nursing professionals has created a vacuum and shortage of these workers. It is also a fact that nursing professionals are searching jobs in sectors other than health care for the better work environment and earning possibilities. The common grievances of nurse aides are tough, stressing, and unpleasant job duties. They also risk their health from communicable and infectious diseases when they come in contact with residents and also perform tasks that may injure them, but they receive meagre CNA salary for their services. There are also regional disparities because qualified nursing workers prefer working in cities, metropolitans, and urban centres. Such trends have further deteriorated the shortage problems in rural locations, small towns, and less populated areas.
All these reasons have made it necessary to implement immediate steps to retain and increase the supply of qualified nurses because shortage and inadequate supply of frontline care workers can drastically affect the patient outcome and competent cares. The State and Federal government and facility management should assuage the grievances of nursing professionals for retaining existing workforce and increasing the numbers of frontline care workers and other nursing professionals.