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The Role of Certified Nursing Assistants in Nursing Homes

Pennington, Karen MS, RN; Scott, Jill PhD, RN; Magilvy, Kathy PhD, RN

Journal of Nursing Administration: November 2003 - Volume 33 - Issue 11 - p 578-584

Objective Pilot study to examine the experiences of the certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in Colorado nursing homes.

Background Data CNAs provide 80% to 90% of the care to residents in nursing homes. Their reported turnover rate is as high as 400% in some studies, and the potential pool of CNAs is dwindling. As the demand for CNAs increases, their experiences must be understood to effectively address recruitment and retention issues.

Methods Minimally structured interviews of 12 CNAs in 6 Colorado nursing homes and observations of care provided were conducted. Atlas/Ti software was used as a data management tool for analyzing and coding data.

Results The overriding theme that emerged from the interviews was “we love our jobs.” Three patterns of thought and behavior emerged: attributes of the CNA, working conditions of the CNA, and future success of the CNA and the nursing home.

Conclusions Issues important to CNAs revolved around basic motivational factors, such as job enrichment opportunities, personal growth opportunities, recognition, responsibility, and sense of achievement. Leadership must become creative and build on that base, providing CNAs with job mobility, job enrichment opportunities, recognition, and increased job responsibility, producing positive outcomes not only for the CNA but also for the resident and the facility.

Authors’ affiliation: Adjunct Instructor (Ms Pennington), Arapahoe Community College, Division of Math, Health, Science, and Engineering, Littleton, Colo; Assistant Professor (Dr Scott); Professor and Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs (Dr Magilvy), University of Colorado, School of Nursing, Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colo.

Corresponding author: Karen Pennington, MS, RN, 8601 E Kettle Circle, Centennial, CO 80112 (

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.