Are Your CNAs In the Know about Sexual Harassment?

Regardless of your political leanings, there is no denying that the current presidential election has brought the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront.  As healthcare professionals, we know that sexual harassment is an important topic, mandated as part of every employee’s training by the Joint Commission, OSHA and state regulations.

Still, it seems as if most women (and some men) have at least one story to tell about a time they were sexually harassed.  Mine occurred many years ago, when, as a 22-year-old college senior, I landed an internship at a well-regarded children’s hospital.  Back then, parents weren’t allowed in the pre-operative area, so my role was to stay with the children and tend to their physical and emotional needs prior to surgery.

One day, as I was comforting a seven-year-old boy who was frightened about his imminent operation, the anesthesiologist assigned to his case came up to the boy’s stretcher.  Loudly enough for the patient to hear, he said to me, “I sure wish you’d hold my hand, lean over me, and talk softly like that…but I’d want you to loosen another button or two on your blouse.”  His words shocked me; I blushed, feeling both embarrassed and angry, but kept my attention on my young patient.

Later that day, I told my supervisor what had happened.  In turn, she relayed the episode to the Chief of Surgery, who asked to meet with me.  He apologized on behalf of the department and said that the offending anesthesiologist would also apologize.  I was told that he had been reprimanded both verbally and in writing in his personnel file.  Soon after, the anesthesiologist did apologize.  He kept his distance for the remainder of my internship and I suffered no repercussions from reporting the harassment.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if I would have been so quick to report the incident had I been an employee at the hospital (instead of an unpaid intern).  Would I have potentially jeopardized my job and/or risked escalating the problem by reporting a man with whom I would have to work, day after day, month after month?  I’d like to think the answer is “yes,” especially because the physician’s offending behavior happened in front of a scared child whose life was soon to be in his hands.  But, of course, I’ll never know for sure.

Do your nurse aides understand what constitutes sexual harassment and how to respond if it happens to them?  Is “locker room talk” okay because it’s just words?  What types of actions are considered sexual harassment?  What if the offender is a person of power in your workplace?  What if the offender is a patient?

If your nurse aides could benefit from a better understanding of this important issue, consider our inservice, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.  It answers all of these questions, and more.  And, because it is such a critical topic these days, we are offering it at a 25% discount now through November 11th.

Sexual Harassment in the WorkplacePlease note that while the inservice was written for nursing assistants and provides them with one hour of inservice credit, the information in the module would be useful for any and all of your employees.

Best wishes,


Linda H. Leekley BS, RN, President, In the Know


For CNAs Everywhere: Walking a Path of Purpose

All of us at In the Know are honored to have Corey Anne Rotella, CNA, lend her very special voice to our blog as a regular contributor. Corey has worked on the frontlines of long term care since 2008. As she states, “Sometimes, you pick a career and sometimes a career picks you. In my case, the latter is true.”  (You can read more about Corey below.)

Here, Corey shares her thoughts about CNA Week:

Another National Nurse’s Assistant week is upon us.  Every year, I am deeply moved that others in the medical field take a moment from their own hectic schedules to show us their appreciation, often in creative and thoughtful ways.

There are times when our job can feel thankless and, sometimes, we might forget that we play a vital role in the health and quality of life of those for whom we care.  I know, for me, any lovely words of encouragement and tokens of appreciation from the nurses, administrators, and doctors mean a great deal.

Recently, as CNA Week approached, I found myself thinking of how much I appreciate my fellow CNAs–my partners, my teammates on the frontline.  It occurred to me that every year, as we celebrate together and feel appreciated by others, we don’t necessarily stop to say thank you to each other.  I would like to take the opportunity to do so now.

Thank you, my fellow CNAs.  Thank you for showing up to take care of your patients, even when you feel under the weather. Thank you for staying late when necessary. Thank you for helping out even when it’s not your patient or resident, for being a team player.  Thank you for helping me find that invisible dog for my patient with Alzheimer’s disease, for risking your back with heavy lifting and for bravely cleaning up any number of bodily fluids. Thank you for being my grief counselor, and allowing me to be yours, and for sharing laughter and tears and frustrations.  Thank you for being my teachers and for shining the light of humor during the toughest shifts.

Most of all, thank you for caring and reminding me, by your example, of the value of what we do.  We are the eyes, ears, hands, legs and voices for those who cannot fend for themselves.  I know this truth in my heart of hearts because you have taught me. I take great pride in walking this path of purpose with all of you and you are deeply appreciated.  Always know that you make a difference in this world. I thank you for that!

Until next time,


Here’s more about Corey Anne Rotella, in her own words:

“At first, I worked in the housekeeping department at an assisted living facility until I could afford to take the state test. Then I moved up to CNA. I also have my Medication Aid certification, but my heart is on the floor, where I can interact, observe and care for my residents.  My priority is taking time with my residents so that they know they are valued as human beings.  At the end of the day, don’t we all need to know that?

What I love most about my job as a CNA is that every single lesson I learn at work can be applied in all areas of my life.  A lifelong chronicler, I began to fuse my two passions and write about my work experiences, my perceptions and the issues that we all face in the healthcare system–patients and workers alike.

What impresses me most about the nurses behind In The Know is that they shine a light on the problems that exist in the healthcare field and offer practical, well thought out solutions that are effective and embrace individual accountability.  I am both extremely grateful and incredibly excited to contribute to their mission in any way that I can.”

How Will You Thank Your CNAs?

CNA Week begins on Thursday, June 12th.  Are you ready to give some extra acknowledgement and appreciation to your hardworking nurse aides?

If you need some ideas, please see this blog post on our sister site, Embracing Civility. You can also send your CNAs to this link so that they can win a free copy of In the Know’s bestselling book:

Another idea for CNA Week is to keep a computer (that is accessible to your nurse aides) open to Just for Nursing Assistants so that your staff can take a minute here and there to read all the comments from grateful nurses, celebrities and the general public.

Have a wonderful week celebrating your top-notch nursing assistants!


A Caregiver Crisis Is Coming…

WANTED (between now and 2022): 580,000 new personal care aides, 424,200 home health aides, and 312,200 nursing assistants.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is estimating that in the not too distant future, our nation will be in the midst of a caregiver crisis.  Hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities will all be experiencing a shortage of caregivers.  To meet the demand of the aging baby boomer population, an estimated 1.3 million new positions will have to be created.

Will these positions be filled?  Caregiving positions carry a high rate of turnover and are sometimes hard to fill.    As you know, these are low-paid, demanding jobs that promise high rates of injury and, frequently, no benefits.  Some ideas that have been put forth for solving this crisis include:

  • Providing higher wages and overtime pay for direct care workers.
  • Filling more caregiver positions with immigrants.  (Currently, 20% of the caregivers in America were born in another country.)
  • Allowing family members to be paid to care for their loved ones.
  • Hiring retired nurses as paid caregivers.

The above information was compiled in a New York Times article, A Shortage of Caregivers, by Judith Graham.  (You can read the full article here.)  However, the comments people have posted to the article make even more interesting reading. Here is a sampling of those comments:

“This is back breaking work, literally . High incidences of injuries causing life long disabilities of the back and shoulders. As a society we need to value our elderly more, AND the people that care for them. 9-10 dollars take home pay…disgusting.”

“Heaven forbid that children take care of their parents.”

“Retired people should do heavy lifting? We’ve decimated pensions; we treat social security as stealing from the rich. What a wonderful idea; let’s put the idle retired to work at minimum wage or less. What brilliant person thought this one up?”

“It was the heavy lifting and turning that discouraged me from working in long term care. We have advanced technology in this country and can’t find a solution for our seniors???”

“There is a big problem with the numbers of aides being hired in assisted living facilities, etc. who do not speak English. Many places do not even require a test of rudimentary English. This is so dangerous to have CNAs who cannot even put a sentence together, let alone respond to an elderly resident.”

“Robotics and other mechanical innovations can take the physical difficulty out of this work and lower the requirement for the number of workers. In Japan, there are automated systems to provide a bath to geriatric patients that minimize fall and slip risks.”

Obviously, this is a very complicated and heated issue! What is your take on the “caregiver crisis”?  We’d love to hear your comments, ideas, concerns and/or suggestions!



Green Houses to Help Seniors AND Nursing Assistants Thrive?

You and your CNAs work very hard to promote the best quality of life possible for your elderly patients, clients and/or residents.  But, everyone in healthcare knows that certain issues can really impact client care—such as staffing ratios, quality time spent with clients and infection control practices.  One non-profit organization in the U.S. has developed their own answer to better quality care for the elderly–the Green House Project.

Inside the Green Houses

These small houses were designed to hold about 10 residents and represent a “hybrid” of home health care and nursing home care.  The idea is that each resident would receive better, more individualized care as well as one-on-one social interaction with other residents and nursing assistants.  There are currently 260 of these Green Houses in 32 states across the nation.

Within each of these homes, the clinical support team (including nursing assistants, a nurse, and a doctor) focus on not only physical health, but also emotional development and growth.  As you know, the elderly face many different emotional “roadblocks” (many of these dilemmas occur when a senior is placed in a nursing home).  Inside Green Homes, CNAs are encouraged to spend as much time as possible with each of their clients-including taking meals with the residents-with the hope that nursing assistants can help their clients feel happier and healthier.

A Shift in Health Care

Can you see these Green Houses multiplying across the U.S.?  Do you think your nursing assistants would enjoy working in a smaller environment that encourages close contact with their clients?  Do you think these quality interactions would help your nursing assistants provide better care?  We’d love to know your thoughts!