By Lin Sue Flood
The global pandemic highlighted not only the skill and compassion of health care workers but also the stamina and resilience it takes to do their jobs. Certified nursing assistants are in higher demand than ever because they are often considered the “backbone” of a care team.
CNAs are the ones who help patients with personal care — bathing, dressing and personal hygiene. Patients who are unable to perform the activities of daily living by themselves due to advanced age, serious illness or dementia increasingly rely on nursing aides as their conditions progress. It’s an intimate relationship by its very nature.
“The personal care they provide, with warmth and graciousness, builds trust with the patient,” says Cindy Krogh, Hospice of the Valley’s clinical resource educator for CNAs.
It’s not surprising patients develop a feeling of safety and comfort — and many see their CNAs as part of the family. One woman recalls how her sister’s CNA always spoke with a loving voice and made the bedsheets so smooth. “My sister was a very pretty woman, and her CNA would style her hair. All of the little touches are big things in this type of situation.”
CNAs are also “the eyes and ears” of the care team.
“The nursing assistant may be the discipline that sees the patient the most often,” says Krogh, a registered nurse and former CNA herself.
“They may be the first ones to notice and report subtle changes that can be addressed immediately. It can make a huge difference in someone’s quality of life.”
At Hospice of the Valley, CNAs provide care wherever patients live, as well as in nine inpatient units. They support patients physically and emotionally and teach family caregivers how to help their loved ones — skills like moving them from bed to chair or adjusting a walker. The nonprofit agency accounts for two-thirds of all certified hospice and palliative care nursing assistants in Arizona.
“Achieving this status challenges our CNAs to grow personally and professionally. It validates their knowledge, professionalism and hard work,” Krogh says. “It also gives their patients and families that extra measure of comfort that their CNA has taken steps to broaden their expertise.”
After 40 years as a CNA, Mitzie Tewayguna still loves the special bond she has with the people she cares for. “The work we do is so rewarding. The smiles on our patients’ faces say it all!”
Eliana Medrano and Cinthia Ortega Medrano agree. The sisters-in-law are both marking 10 years as CNAs at the agency. “We love the one-on-one time we have with patients,” Eliana says.
“Connecting on a deeper level with my patients allows me to get to know them beyond their medical needs,” CNA Kalyana Wright adds. “I experience something unique with each family, and to me that is priceless.”
Some CNAs even sing to their patients. Over the years, Renee Brown and Lisa Abaton have used their beautiful voices to bring immeasurable comfort. “If people are tense, it relaxes them,” Brown says. “Singing calms the nerves and soothes the spirit.”
“There’s not one day that I don’t want to go see my patients,” says Mark Rivard, a 20-year Hospice of the Valley CNA. “Every single day, I know I’m doing good and I’m really helping people. I can’t imagine a job that I can do more good than this one.”
CNAs, certified caregivers and nurses seeking meaningful careers are encouraged to visit hov.org/careers or call Tiffany at 602-776-6843. Flexible schedules, career advancement and excellent benefits are offered.
Lin Sue Flood is community engagement director for Hospice of the Valley. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hov.org.