I’ve worked in long term care for 37 years. I started my career as so many others have, as a nursing assistant—before the days of certification. I did go on to earn my administrator’s license and work in operations but my heart has always been with the nursing assistants.
There have been many changes in long term care over the course of my career, most of them positive changes that have improved care. I have always welcomed change, as I truly believe that growth and progress require change.
So, why do I have such a hard time embracing an occupational title change for CNAs, certified nursing assistants? I guess it’s because of the suggested titles and terminology. I know everyone has opinions and probably every special interest group has a different idea of what the title should be.
Let me explain my thoughts on one of the most common suggested titles that is already being widely used: direct care worker. The word “worker”, to me, is insulting to the CNA profession. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of worker is “a person who does very hard or dull work”. I agree that CNAs work very hard, but the work is anything but dull—it is challenging, difficult and rewarding all at the same time.
Merriam Webster also lists the synonyms for “worker” which include: drone, drudge, grub, grunt, peon and serf to name a few. Now, I don’t have the dictionary memorized, however, I do know that when I hear the word “worker” it brings to mind assembly lines and factory jobs, neither of which resemble the service of a CNA.
There are many people and organizations representing different segments of long term care that have adopted the “direct care worker” title. These individuals and groups also acknowledge that the CNA position is deserving of respect and recognition. How much respect comes with the title “direct care worker”? There is a reason why a physician is called a physician or doctor and not a “human body worker” or “health maintenance worker”.
CNAs are certified nursing assistants, health care professionals. That is who I want caring for me and my family…not a “worker”.
Now, tell me, who wants to be called a “worker”?