A Creative Community Solution to CNA Education
A church and a care agency join forces to make CNA training accessible and affordable for caregivers.
by Leslie Eckford
“Not enough good caregivers.” This is a typical lament of private care agencies and care facilities around the country. They continue to deal with high employee turnover and are finding it harder to find well trained, qualified staff. The need for professional caregivers is growing at a historical rate as the aging population rises. However, a common obstacle stands in the way of getting more qualified entrants into this growing employee sector: the cost of good training and certification. Many people who want to be caregivers simply may not be able to afford the cost of training for the Certified Nurse Assistant course.
The CNA is the gold standard for entry into the field as a professional caregiver. That said, the quality, duration and affordability of the training varies tremendously from state to state. A person seeking to be a professional licensed caregiver could pay in the neighborhood of $700-1000 or more for the CNA course. This is not only costly, but discouraging for many who will probably move onto another area of employment. Thus, potentially good employees will be lost to the profession.
Is there a solution to this problem? Yes. One example is the Eleos Nursing Academy in Charlottesville, Virginia. The academy is the brainchild of community partners who saw the need and created an answer. This newly developed nurse’s aide training course started as a conversation among members of the Trinity Presbyterian Church in 2013. It so happened that some of the members of Trinity are in the nursing and medical fields. They were aware of the shortage of good, well trained professional caregivers and nurses aides. Could this problem could be reduced if high quality, reliable and affordable training was available to those candidates? They saw that they had the skill, talent and experience to be instrumental in making this happen. Thus, the goal to create the Eleos Nursing Academy began.
The Trinity group collaborated with the Commonwealth Care Group, a new and innovative care agency in the area. One of CCG’s major distinctions from other local care agencies is that they pay a higher pay rate to professional caregivers. In contrast, traditional care agencies underpay these critically important staff and this practice is a major factor in high employee turnover. High turnover reduces the consistency and quality of care for elders. In addition, CCG’s employees are “selectively recruited” and their training is held at a high standard. Like the Trinity members, CCG also recognized the need for more well trained home care aides and accessible training for the nurses aide certification. They have stepped up to the plate and are providing Elios Nursing Academy with insurance coverage, tuition subsidies, and administrative services for the program.
The church, in turn, provides classroom space and coordinates curriculum and clinical hours at local nursing facilities. Their volunteer instructors are all RNs who commit to teach for the 3 month, 140 hour course. There is additional support from LPNs, CNAs and other mentors. According to Sean Greer of CCG, the “Eleos Nursing Academy was founded with the hope of making CNA training accessible to economically, physically, and/or socially underprivileged citizens in Charlottesville. The program caters to those in need, so we make provisions for child care and transportation assistance as needed to ensure every student can put their full focus on the course material.” Though it has started small with one class that has completed the course at this time, their graduating class had a 100% pass rate of the NNAAP examination.
It will be of great interest to see the Eleos Nursing Academy grow. As this school continues, we encourage like-minded community interests and businesses around the country to consider a similar enterprise and duplicate it. Imagine if the resources that currently serve the elderly in your community could join forces to create good reliable education and jobs for people in need of them. Picture a larger, more consistently trained and skilled professional caregiver workforce ready for one of the most honorable roles in health care and aging at home today.