2017 found Kendal at Lexington struggling to maintain a full complement of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) for the onsite Borden Skilled Nursing Center. This was an anomaly for Kendal at Lexington. For several years we had been very fortunate to be able to attract and retain high quality certified nursing assistants, with a waiting list of applicants desiring to join the KaLex team.
We attempted to use many of the standard recruitment tools including hiring and referral bonuses and expanding our recruitment area and the number and types of advertising venues. Our Human Resources (HR) Director contacted local resources that could assist us in identifying employable CNAs including the Virginia Unemployment Commission, the Virginia Workforce Commission, and local schools/colleges who had previously offered CNA training programs. Unfortunately she learned that many CNA training programs had been discontinued in favor of training programs for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). And, groups that were continuing to provide CNA training were not scheduling classes until spring/summer of 2018.
As the year went on, we knew that we would have to find an unconventional way to solve our staffing problem. Our existing CNA staff was working extra shifts and many long hours to ensure that our residents received quality care. We recognized that we could not ask them to continue to work at this level. Our HR Director came to the rescue when she identified an organization in Charlottesville that was willing to conduct a special CNA training program for us.
For a set fee paid by Kalex, the organization was prepared to provide training for a class of up to 10 students at a time. The students would receive books, uniforms, classroom and clinical training, and preparation to sit for the state test conducted by the Virginia Board of Nursing that would ultimately result in licensure as a certified nursing assistant. The school even made arrangements for assisting the students to schedule the test. Since the training would occur at the school’s facility in Charlottesville, KaLex also opted to provide transportation. The students would meet at Kendal and be driven to and from school by one of our drivers. In return, the students who received this career growth opportunity would be asked to commit to working for KaLex for a period of one year.
Once the program and expenditures were approved, the HR Director and the Director of Nursing partnered to advertise this opportunity and interview and select the ten best candidates. The selected candidates shared common traits; they recognized the career benefits of the opportunity being provided and had the initiative and desire to work hard and be successful. One of the applicants was a Kendal dining employee. Before embarking on this educational opportunity, the students who were selected were provided an orientation to the expectations of the academic program. But more importantly, the orientation also provided us an opportunity to share our Kendal expectations including an emphasis on our values and practices. As it turned out, there was an unexpected positive outcome as well. A strong mutual support group was formed among the students as they got to know one another during the drive between Lexington and Charlottesville.
Eight of the students successfully completed the training program. All eight students began work at our Borden Skilled Nursing Center as nursing assistants pending their passing of the Virginia State Boards. Seven of the nursing assistants have passed their boards, with the remaining eighth one scheduled to take the test in late April. How fortunate we are to be able to welcome this group of enthusiastic, qualified CNAs to our community!