Healthcare assistants descended virtually on Washington Wednesday, demanding better wages, career development and recognition. During the six-hour online demonstration sponsored by the National Association of Home Care Assistants (NAHCA), registered nurses and certified nursing assistants said the pandemic highlighted the value CNAs provide to in-home care and long-term care.

Prompting the demonstration is how CNAs are treated, even as they suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, explained Lori Porter, co-founder and CEO of NAHCA, who published a column about the event on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

“CNAs have made numerous sacrifices during the pandemic. Many have contracted COVID-19, and some have died. Yet they continue to risk their lives every day, often for less than they could make in food service or retail, all for the love of their residents,” she wrote.

Among the key policy priorities of NAHCA’s march are the following:

  • Resuming the Nurse Aide Training & Competency Evaluation Program Requirements: NAHCA supports the elimination of temporary nurse aide training and the requirement that current TNA-enabled individuals take the remaining hours of a typical course if they want to become CNAs.
  • Addressing recruitment, retention and turnover of CNAs at the national level

Institute for Healthcare Improvement Senior Adviser Alice Bonner said the industry is challenged with recruiting enough CNAs to care for the nation’s more than 70 million baby boomers. “Not only do we need to recruit and retain staff, we also need to develop career pathways for CNAs. Some hope to become trainers, some want to become leaders, but others simply want to continue as CNAs,” Bonner said.

Vicky Castillo, a registered nurse who teaches training classes for CNAs, said currently there simply aren’t enough instructors to provide training. “There is a critical shortage of instructors. Without classes, you can’t train CNAs to become part of the workforce,” she said.

Castillo said many states require registered nurses to teach CNA certification classes, which “lowers the pool of available candidates to teach.”