NORTH CONWAY, NH -- National Nursing Assistants Week, June 10-June 17, is dedicated to recognizing the efforts of Nursing Assistants - LNAs (Licensed Nursing Assistants) and CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants). With much of its patient care provided by these compassionate and dedicated professionals, Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice sees it as a chance to highlight these caregivers and how much they mean to the patients and families they provide care to.
VNHCH Executive Director Sandy Ruka took some time to explain the role of the nursing assistant, a little understood but incredibly valuable part of her team. “Nursing Assistants may go by different names depending on where they work and in which state they are licensed. Sometimes you may hear about LNAs or CNAs, or just nursing assistants. They may work in home care, hospitals, nursing homes or hospices. No matter where they work, they receive daily satisfaction from those they care for. The reward of easing pain and providing help in daily tasks is highly motivating for them. They are committed to caring for others … what an amazing calling in life.”
Sandy’s reflections on the profession resonated with two members of the VNHCH team.
Penny Burgess of Madison, NH took a few minutes out of a busy day caring for patients in the home to share why she chose a career as a nursing assistant. “What attracted me to working as a CNA was seeing my mother take care of my grandmother 30 years ago. She did it on her own. She moved in with my grandmother and took care of her and kept her at home until she passed away. There weren’t a lot of home health agencies back then.”
After witnessing what her mother and grandmother went through, Penny got her CNA license right out of high school, as did her sister. 28 years later, there has been no looking back. After working in a facility with a nursing home, hospice and skilled care unit for 28 years, Penny made her way to home care at VNHCH three years ago.
“I love taking care of people, and helping them getting better. I wish I had done home health care a long time ago.”
Her work as an CNA took a personal turn 7 years ago, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Penny was able to keep him at home with the support of a home health care agency. “He didn’t want to go to a facility at the end. He wanted to be at home. It was wonderful to have him be in his own home to pass, and be around familiar people.”
What has kept her going for 31 years as a CNA? Having a very personal impact on the quality of life for people who are often overlooked. “Some of these people are forgotten – sometimes we are the only people they see all week, their only interaction. It’s amazing to be able to keep them in their home, whether they are coming home from the hospital to receive care, or at the end of life.”
Penny sees her job as a calling and shares this advice for those considering it as a career choice. “I would tell someone considering this job that you need compassion, you need to be dependable, accountable, diplomatic, and to speak up for these people. We are often the only voice they have. Sometimes the family isn’t involved. It’s not about money, it’s what you want to do. It’s all I’ve ever done, to take care of people. You have to want to make things better for people. You have look beyond what are often difficult living conditions and see the person. The stories you hear and the love you get from them is amazing. They don’t have anyone else. They just want you to play cards or have coffee. They don’t get out. They want to hear what you did over the weekend, they live through you. It brings them joy and happiness. These people have worked their whole lives – hard working people – they deserve to be taken care of.”
Penny’s co-worker Maureen Cahill of Conway, NH is an LNA who has been licensed since 2009. After starting as a private duty nursing assistant working in patient homes, she first worked at Mineral Springs before joining VNHCH almost two years ago. Like Penny, Maureen grew up seeing family and neighbors taking care of one another. The personal interactions with her patients is what brings her back every day. “It’s very rewarding to go in and help someone, with a shower, or whatever their needs are. Or just to sit there and chat with them and learn about them, all their backgrounds.”
With a shortage of nursing assistants, Maureen shared what it takes to be an LNA and what she thinks would attract more people to the profession.
“It takes a special person to do this job. To attract more people to the profession, training is so important. These young people need training. As they become an LNA, the school work is just the start. They need one on one training with an experienced LNA.”
LNAs considering a career move would well consider working with VNHCH, according to Maureen. “I think VNHCH is very helpful, very friendly. If you have an issue they are happy to help you out. I think it’s a great organization. I’d recommend it to other LNAs.”
In closing, she shared, “There’s a real call for this type of care. I hope more women and men will get out there and become an LNA. I’d like to see more men involved because I think some of our male patients might prefer that.”
For more information on VNHCH, visit them online at www.vnhch.org or call 603-356-7006.