Featuring: Caregiver Lashonda B. CNA in Staffing & Scheduling

With coronavirus restrictions easing and people out and about again, we’ve started seeing them everywhere – “Help Wanted” signs. They’re posted in restaurants and cafés, retail stores and hotels. They’re posted in shop windows and online job-seeker sites. And we’re hearing about labor shortages in every industry, from travel and trucking to construction and banking. The economy is clawing its way back, but businesses can’t hire enough people to meet all the pent-up demand for goods and services. Nowhere is this more true than in the healthcare industry.

There has long been a massive labor shortage in healthcare, and the pandemic has only made it worse. Reasons for the shortage are plentiful: a growing aging population that requires more medical attention and care; an aging healthcare workforce that is beginning to retire; caregivers who are leaving high stress frontline jobs for roles that are less exposed to coronavirus and won’t be affected by future lockdowns; and caregivers who simply can’t return to work until their children are safely back in school. Working in healthcare requires true dedication in the face of long hours of physically demanding work in an industry where employees are often underpaid and under-recognized.

Lashonda (right) receiving the Ceca Award

So, you can imagine what life has been like for a caregiver like Lashonda in a staffing and scheduling role at a long-term care facility. She has worked in healthcare in a variety of capacities for over 15 years, and became responsible for ensuring that patients and residents are cared for through scheduling and deployment of nursing and caregiving personnel. It’s a role that involves communicating with families, helping recruit and onboard caregiving staff, providing support to operations, and doing whatever is required to ensure quality care for patients and residents. It’s an important job, and one that plays an instrumental role in almost every other job in the senior living facility. It’s a tough job in the best of times, and this past year has not been the best of times.

Lashonda was recently nominated for the Ceca Award for her ability to motivate employees to provide additional support outside of their regular hours to ensure all shifts were covered, as well as for her willingness to jump in and learn many HR functions to ensure payroll, hiring, and recruitment functions continued to run smoothly in the absence of full-time employees in those positions.

How does she do all that with reduced staff? “It’s a lot more challenging,” admits Lashonda. “We worked as a team, and we got through it. I had to keep employees happy. When we lost payroll and HR staff, we stepped up to the plate hand-in-hand. I didn’t know HR, but I learned a lot helping them with interviews and payroll, and now I’m training a new payroll person.”

Lashonda loves her job, which explains why she is eager to provide insight and learning opportunities to her coworkers to help them grow as new team members in skilled nursing care. Even after 15 years, she still really enjoys interacting with residents. “It’s all for the residents,” she explains. “I’m staffing for the residents, not for my administrator.” And she really loves interacting with employees, especially CNAs, because “I know where I came from.”

Born into a large family and raised by her grandmother in Allentown, PA, Lashonda always wanted to work in healthcare as a CNA. When her grandmother got Alzheimers, Lashonda cared for her and found she loved caring for the elderly. She became a CNA and raised two children as a single mom doing double shifts. “It was hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says proudly.

When COVID hit, Lashonda wasn’t scared at all. “We work in healthcare and have other diseases that are worse than COVID. We know what we have to do, what precautions to take. It was just a matter of not knowing what COVID was.” She did recognize that, “Some were scared. I’d try to bring them down to where they weren’t scared, so they’d come to work and take care of these patients. That was my priority.”

Like so many other healthcare workers, Lashonda made truly heroic personal sacrifices, jeopardizing her own health and private life to care for her residents. “We have a grandson living with us, so I’d go home, strip in the garage, take a shower, and keep up the precautions at home.” Now, things are becoming “a little bit normal with visitors coming in. Patients and residents are much happier, they get to see their loved ones. And I get to go home and see my loved ones.”

Lashonda received the Ceca Award for her exceptional work and for being an inspiration to those who recognize her work ethic and ability to remain flexible as business unit needs change. She’s been able to juggle multiple tasks on a daily basis and is always meticulous about ensuring each unit is covered with the appropriate nursing staff every single day. She is a lifesaver and an invaluable resource to so many at the facility.

Lashonda acknowledges that, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming. We dealt with COVID for a year and a half, and now we just need to move on, focus on residents, and we need to get our workers back!”

To schedule an interview with one of our featured caregivers, contact us at prinquiries@cecafoundation.org.