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Life of a PTA

Aide Staff Appreciation

Published May 9, 2014 4:14 PM by Allison Young

Having worked in the skilled nursing setting for a number of years now, I'm always struck by how much I have to communicate with the nursing aide staff. Whether it pertains to a patient's transfer status or what time a shower is scheduled, I'm constantly "grabbing" a CNA for information.

One of the first pieces of advice a veteran PT gave me when I started my career in skilled nursing physical therapy was "be friendly to the aide staff -- you'll need their help." This advice could not have been more productive. Numerous times a week, I'm seeking an aide to assist me with a two-person transfer or requesting a patient be up and ready for therapy at a specific time.

Often, I'll have to discuss the patient's transfer safety and complete training with the aide staff when a patient's transfer is upgraded. This can be hard to negotiate during the day as aides are constantly on the move assisting patients and most often understaffed.

I've found the most compassionate and bright CNAs do not last long in the facility. No surprise, these ladies and gentlemen are on the RN nursing track and ultimately leave to go back to school. This leads me to the baffling question of why do nursing assistants make minimum wage? I agree that a six-week certification program should not garner a six-figure salary, but I don't think I'm far off when I say they deserve to make more than say, retail -- selling shoes.

Another PTA friend who worked in the SNF setting suggested that CNAs make $15 across the board, which would help with maintaining good quality staff and job retention. Considering the physical labor and importance of their clientele, I have to agree.

I consider aides to be working on the "front lines" of healthcare. A position that is notoriously and inexplicably underappreciated. An observant CNA can alert the nursing staff to a potentially serious health decline of a patient. As well, aides are assisting patients more than any other staff member. In many ways they represent the facility or hospital in the patient's view. Many of my patients can't stop extolling the virtues of an excellent CNA who is working with them.

However, an apathetic or "moody" aide encounter can affect a patient's day and even his focus in a therapy session. If I were the administrator in a healthcare facility, I would take a hard look at this fact. But in the meantime, I assist my CNA friends as much as I can on the floor.

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