Signature execs first in nation to become CNAs

by Ben Adkins via SHC Daily News

Signature Executives become CNAs

Signature HealthCARE is turning the traditional organizational chart upside down with one of its latest endeavors – company executives becoming CNAs.

Twenty Signature leaders have nearly completed the Long-Term Care Nursing Assistant certification program through Spalding University’s School of Nursing. The roster for the first Signature CNA class includes President & CEO Joe Steier, CFO John Harrison and 18 other leaders from various other departments and segments.

Employees at Signature’s home office in Louisville are undergoing the training to promote understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by front-line workers in the company’s homes, while strengthening the connection between the home office and staff members in the field.

“CNAs have absolutely the toughest job in the company, bar-none,” said Joe Barimo, Vice President of Corporate Learning. “They really are the eyes and ears in our facilities.”

The push to have corporate employees become CNAs also embodies Signature’s philosophy on learning – that it occurs at all levels of an organization, and that employees, or stakeholders, can learn from each other regardless of their positions.

“We love our stakeholders, who are great teachers,” Steier said. “Everyone at Signature becoming a CNA is a great social movement to change minds and hearts for long-term care.”

The role of the CNA will only continue to grow in need and importance as demand for senior care services also expands. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants will grow by 19 percent through 2018, to more than 1.7 million nationwide.

That growth will be driven in part by financial pressure on hospitals to discharge patients quickly, combined with modern medical technologies that allow people to live longer with chronic diseases, increasing the need for LTC services.

“The nursing assistant is at the point of care in LTC for the resident and becomes more and more an integral component of the health care team,” said Carolyn K. Lewis, former professor and nursing chair at Spalding who recently resigned to start a nursing program at Bluefield College in her native Tazewell, Va.

Lewis worked closely with the Signature team as they pursued their CNA certifications. By partnering with Signature, the Spalding University School of Nursing became the first in the nation to offer the long-term care nursing assistant program to a group of health care executives, Lewis said.

“The School felt compassionately that if executives better understood the scope of practice of the long-term care nursing assistant and their responsibilities for the care at the bedside, this would ultimately impact total quality of care,” she said. “We felt that outcomes would exceptionally improve – not only outcomes related to care but also retention and self-satisfaction for the LTC nursing assistant. We commend the Signature executives for their visionary thinking.”

But Signature leaders – even those with advanced college degrees – were also quick to acknowledge the rigors of the process as they learned that a CNA license is not easily obtained. Students must complete 3,060 minutes of online coursework, in addition to eight hours of lab work and 16 hours of on-the-job clinical training.

Clinical training was completed at Signature HealthCARE of South Louisville, where the staff spent considerable time preparing and working with the group of company leaders.

“My biggest takeaway from this experience is just how important and difficult their work is,” said Andrew Smith, Vice President of Customer Experience and Strategy. “I don’t think I could do it, and I think a lot of corporate executives, if they’re being honest with themselves, would say the same. It takes a special heart, and it takes a level of patience and compassion that’s pretty remarkable.”

As challenging and humbling as the process was, the group emerged with a newfound appreciation for their CNA co-workers.

Dianne Timmering, Vice President of Spirituality for Signature, called the experience “life-changing.”

“You interact with the residents at a whole new level of love because they are so fragile and vulnerable, full of wisdom, love and need – and they’re grateful,” she said. “And with the stakeholders, you just see in so many ways their commitment. We connected with them as much as we did the residents. We had a ball.”