BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System is experiencing a critical shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants. Across its four hospitals in the region, St. Charles has more than 40 vacancies.
Nurse Manager Allea Thomas-Putnam says CNAs provide vital services, "Predominantly, CNAs are really there to do ‘activities of daily living’ for our patients. Things like: helping them get washed up and brush their teeth; helping them ambulate to and from the bathroom, doing vital signs and taking blood sugars, and things of that nature." She tells KBND News, "That is part of a nurse’s scope to function as a CNA. But, we certainly don’t want nurses chronically working as CNAs, because we want them working to the height of their license, with the medication administration and some of those critical thinking things that nurses do."
Thomas-Putnam says the nursing contract negotiations currently underway with St. Charles Bend isn't a factor in the shortage, because CNAs aren’t part of the union. "There’s a nationwide shortage of CNAs. CNA work is very, very rewarding work but it’s challenging work. And, I think that it’s just a growing occupation, so naturally we’re just seeing a shortage."
As an incentive for new hires, St. Charles recently increased the starting wage for CNA’s by $2 an hour, and the health system offers scholarships to help pay for training. Thomas-Putnam says becoming a CNA is a great way to enter the healthcare field, and is often a stepping stone to becoming an RN.