By Susan Saldibar

I’m sort of sick of people throwing around the word “hero.” I’ve even heard first-graders called “heroes” for picking up someone’s trash. 

Give me a break.

Here’s what “hero” really means, according to Merriam-Webster:

  • An illustrious warrior
  • A person admired for achievements and noble qualities
  • One who shows great courage

Quick story. When my mom was near the end of her life, three CNAs took turns caring for her. They were warriors, battling the physical and emotional obstacles to making Mom comfortable, noble in their patience and uncommon grace, and courageous in asking her tough questions and explaining the most gut-wrenching truths to us, the children who were about to lose her. 

They were our heroes. Righteous heroes.

Who trains our CNA heroes? Odds are, not their employers. 

But I know of at least three people who are out to change all that. They’re kicking ass and taking names to make a difference in the lives of our CNAs through training and continuing education.

These amazing folks joined our own Rachel Hill in a recent KARE-ing Conversations session, one that I can’t possibly do justice to here. That’s why you have to watch it.

  • Lori Potter is CEO of NAHCA, the National Association of Health Care Aids. Lori has seen it all and can point out with surgical accuracy the training issues CNAs have and what they need.
  • Celeste Wooten is about to enter her 24th year as a hospice CNA. And, as a NAHCA board member, she is “going hard in the paint” to get CNAs the education they need.
  • Finally, there is KARE’s own Jordan Evans, whose candid insights continue to light up the KARE-ing Conversations sessions.

NAHCA knows the difference training and certification can make. Do you?

NAHCA knows exactly how important CNA training is and has been working to spread the word for over 17 years. They have, as Lori points out, a “long history of telling the truth.” As the only organization dedicated to CNAs, so far they’ve provided free continuing education for over 30,000 CNAs. And counting.

Cooler yet, is that NAHCA and KARE (a Foresight partner) have announced a partnership through the care-enablement platform, CareAcademy, to provide training for over 50,000 frontline caregivers. To say this is needed is an understatement. Together, NAHCA and KARE are offering free courses to all caregivers in their network, through the CareForce Virtual Campus.

The School of YouTube? 

Truth: Watching YouTube and scouring the internet for resources is often the only resource for CNAs. 

Celeste did a lot of her own training by watching YouTube videos. One of her favorites was a video on how to give a shower to a hospice patient in a chair using a hose from the sink and a water catcher from under a washing machine. 

She even learned meditation by watching YouTube videos. She did it herself because she knew she needed something to lift some of the stress off her shoulders. Nobody provided any organized program, so she dug in and learned it herself. 

Makes a great story, but c’mon, what’s wrong here ….

Here are Celeste’s, Lori’s, and Jordan’s words of advice to leadership:

  • CNAs are not simply task-oriented people. If they are your backbone, support that backbone.
  • Empower them. They know more about your residents than anyone else. 
  • Don’t talk at them. Treat them as part of the nursing team.
  • Don’t stop with the certification required by CMS. 
  • Encourage them to get certified for memory care, medical assistance, palliative care, or something else. And pay for it!
  • Once they become certified, acknowledge it. 

Celeste paid $185 to take the certification exam. That’s crazy. Why can’t communities spring for this? 

Maybe it’s time to stop simply talking about how wonderful your CNAs are, how they’re your backbone, how they are the heroes in your community, and do something about it. 

Watch the video. And learn more about the CareForce Virtual Campus here.

P.S. By the way, exciting — KARE and NAHCA have hit the road, traveling around the country to talk to CNAs and hear their stories. Can’t wait to hear all about the results! Stay tuned.