How COVID-19 Has Shaped the CNA Shortage & Why Better Tech Can Make a Difference
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t only devastated senior living residents. It’s also taken a serious toll on the people who care for them.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and care workers in assisted living and memory care communities had long been understaffed and overextended before the pandemic began. Then as communities have battled COVID-19, stressful and unsafe environments have only worsened the shortage.
While safe working conditions and fair compensation are essential to better staff retention, job satisfaction is often a missing piece of the puzzle. That’s because senior living staff need better tools to help them do the work they set out to do: helping seniors live well and independently. Technology can enable staff to do their jobs efficiently and meaningfully.
Happy staff makes for happier communities. And crucially, if communities don’t increase staff retention as our population ages, there won’t be enough people to care for them. Here’s how technology can increase staff retention and satisfaction in senior living, through the remainder of the pandemic and into the future.
The State of the CNA Shortage, Pre-Pandemic to Today
CNAs play a central role in the continuum of care for older adults in senior living communities. But frequent staff turnover has long plagued the industry, which is both costly for communities and detrimental to residents who depend on consistent care.
Back in 2019, turnover rates were alarmingly high. According to one report, CNAs had a 41 percent turnover rate, and registered nurses (RNs) were at 31 percent. That was still an improvement from five years prior, when long-term care turnover rates averaged between 55 to 75 percent.
Why is staff turnover in senior living, particularly among nurse staff, so high? The churn has to do with the resources provided to staff and the quality of their work environment. The most commonly cited reasons are…
- Low wages and benefits
- Physical demands of the job
- Strained workplace communication
- Broader unemployment trends
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all of these problems. From record unemployment rates in the US to the demands of caregiving in a community facing a COVID-19 outbreak, the CNA strain – and continued shortage – has been deeply felt in 2020. Many decided this year to leave their high-risk jobs and collect unemployment instead, according to a report from NPR.
Senior Living Technology Improves the CNA Work Experience, from Clinical Care to Communication
How can senior living technology address such widespread problems in the CNA workforce as the pandemic rages on? “Technology” is just an umbrella term for a collection of digital tools that can improve pain points in the CNA experience and ultimately boost job satisfaction. Here’s a look at how three of those tools can solve three different pain points.
1: EHRs Streamline the Clinical Side of Caregiving
Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital portraits of resident health. They include everything from a resident’s vitals to chronic disease information to exercise levels. EHRs eliminate the headache of managing resident health data on paper, so that every CNA can simply pull up a resident’s EHR online to get all the intel they need to deliver personalized care.
Senior living care has become increasingly complicated during the pandemic, especially as staff rehabilitate residents recovering from COVID-19. EHRs make it easy for nurse staff to document and track symptoms, medication, and other key health metrics. This allows them to spend less time filing or digging up paperwork and more time with residents.
2: Mobile EHR Platforms Enhance Staff Communication
Poor workplace communication is often a reason why CNAs report low job satisfaction. When it’s difficult to communicate with your co-workers about care tasks and other administrative duties, it’s difficult to do your job properly.
A mobile-accessible EHR platform is vital for communication as it allows CNAs to efficiently manage care responsibilities on the go. With an app like Caremerge’s Point of Care, staff can…
- Check in with coworkers through the communications log
- Document resident health information
- Schedule activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Track health progression
- Maintain compliance with medication administration
- File incident reports
When a resident has a fall or a medical urgency, a mobile EHR facilitates the prompt staff response necessary for treatment and rehabilitation.
3: Voice Technology Gives Residents More Autonomy
It’s not just the technology intended for staff use that helps staff. Resident technology can improve CNAs’ day-to-day work, too.
Voice technology like Amazon Alexa can be especially useful to residents who want to get important information about their community from the safety of their room, without coming in contact with a staff member. Instead of asking nursing staff who are busy delivering care, residents can ask their Alexa to…
- Provide updates about community COVID-19 safety policies
- Submit room maintenance requests
- Read the (virtual) social calendar for the evening
- Set medication reminders
Giving residents more autonomy in their day-to-day planning doesn’t just protect staff and residents from virus transmission – it gives staff more time back in their days to focus on the care that matters.
Looking Ahead to 2021: Better Technology and Federal Investments Promise to Address the CNA Shortage
In 2021, the senior living industry is due for a transformation. Technology can play a major role in reopening as communities plan for a vaccination and the next phase of life after the pandemic.
But better technology alone isn’t a fix-all solution to CNA turnover in senior living. Federal support might be able to help, too. President-elect Joe Biden recently announced plans for a massive child care and elder care package, which outlines an investment in the caregiver workforce through better wages, health insurance, and paid time off.
Together with community-level technology investment, the future of senior living looks bright in 2021.
Curious to learn more specifics about how technology can improve the work experience of your CNAs?