Nursing Assistants in Long-Term Care Facilities

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Nursing Assistants in Long-Term Care Facilities


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology


BEING A NURSING assistant in a long-term care facility is one of the most demanding jobs in America, says Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer. These professionals require emotional strength and interpersonal skill as they confront on-the-job suffering, dementia, and mortality every day.

To help nursing assistants better cope with their major causes of job stress and burn out, Pillemer, professor of human development and co-director of the Cornell Gerontology Institute, has co-authored a new book, The Nursing Assistant's Survival Guide (Frontline Publishers, 1999).

"Studies have shown that probably the most important thing in residents' overall well-being in a nursing home is their relationships with staff," Pillemer says. "And nursing assistants provide almost 90 percent of all the care residents receive. Certified nursing assistants must be expert communicators across a wide array of difficult situations."

The 87-page, easy-to-read manual, illustrated with cartoon drawings, provides practical strategies for coping with stress, death of residents/patients, difficulty in communicating, supervisors, family members, angry or aggressive residents, and family demands. In 1996 Pillemer wrote a companion book for nursing home administrators called Solving the Frontline Crisis in Long-term Care: A Practical Guide to Finding and Keeping Quality Nursing Assistants (Frontline Publishers, 1996). His latest book is targeted to the nursing assistants themselves.

"The shrinking population of nursing assistants is a true crisis that will devastate the long-term care system if drastic measures aren't taken soon," says Pillemer. "We need to make the job more attractive to more people. And we need to help nursing assistants do their job better. By writing this book, we're trying to help nursing assistants better cope with the stress and demands of their jobs.

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