Barclay Friends Takes a Unique and Creative Approach to Recruiting CNAs

Woman in white shirt smiling in wooded area outside

Diane Massey, director of outreach and engagement at The Kendal Corporation

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) play a crucial role in delivering personalized and compassionate care to elderly residents. Adequate staffing with CNAs not only enhances the quality of care, but also fosters a positive living environment and contributes to the overall satisfaction and well-being of residents. Recognizing the critical need for CNAs in the face of staffing challenges, Barclay Friends, a Kendal affiliate in West Chester, Pennsylvania, has implemented an innovative solution: a specialized training and certification program aimed at cultivating a dedicated and skilled team of CNAs to enhance the care experience for older adults.

Read on to learn how this approach has helped address staffing challenges by creating a pipeline of certified CNAs and providing career development opportunities for existing staff.

Creating the CNA Training Program

Laura Smith, senior director of health services at Barclay Friends, explains that CNAs are critical at Barclay Friends, providing direct resident care. “They’re an essential part of the clinical team,” she says. “During the pandemic, Barclay Friends noticed that people were veering away from health and wellness jobs, and it became even more challenging to find CNAs who matched Kendal’s values and expectations. We originated the idea of educating CNAs on site to have staff who are better aligned to Kendal’s Quaker-inspired values and practices, allowing them to acclimate to them from the beginning.”

The idea of a paid training model was inspired by Mariesly Febles, education coordinator at Barclay Friends. Febles came to the United States about 20 years ago, overcoming multiple obstacles including learning English as a second language and earning her GED. “She was persistent in becoming a Certified Medical Assistant and continuing her education to work in the nursing field,” Smith explains. “Her journey provided her sensitivity to the potential applicant pool of CNAs at Barclay Friends. Some people were currently working on site or in the local community, and interested in the opportunity, but couldn’t afford to take three weeks of unpaid training to pursue the CNA path.”

CNA trainee student practicing bedside careThe idea to provide on-site, paid CNA training was a promising one, but Barclay Friends needed seed money to start the training. Diane Massey, director of outreach and engagement at The Kendal Corporation, explains that a Kendal Charitable Funds grant offered an ideal solution. “The Kendal Affiliate Grant program, facilitated by Kendal Charitable Funds, provides support to Kendal Affiliates to initiate inventive programs that impact, engage, and enrich older adults internally, as well as outside of their respective communities,” she says. “In the 2022 grant cycle, affiliates were invited to submit grant requests up to $10,000 to support workforce initiatives that specifically focus on Kendal’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Core Pillars.

“This grant allowed Barclay Friends to pilot the CNA recruitment and retention endeavor and prove its success. Once leadership at Barclay Friends saw the number of interested participants and, more importantly, the number of individuals who completed the program, Kendal Charitable Funds was more than happy to approve supplemental funding for additional cohorts,” Massey explains.

The First Training Program Cohort

The paid training model launched in October 2022. This three-week program is conducted in Barclay Friends’ education room, which can accommodate up to eight students at a time. By conducting the program quarterly, Barclay Friends has the capacity to educate 30 students on campus each year. “The program we purchased for this endeavor is from the Training for Long Term Care Institute (TLC) and was primarily funded by Kendal Charitable Funds,” Smith notes.

“All five participants of the first cohort, who were employees in the Barclay Friends environmental or culinary services department, completed the program and accepted immediate employment,” says Smith. Dave Raible, director of development and marketing, explains, “This successful cohort has created a pipeline of diverse CNAs for the organization and provided increased income and future career opportunities for staff. In addition, the move to a CNA position meant a 50% wage increase for staff who accepted these new jobs.”

Smith notes that the original intent for the program was to create opportunities for existing staff, especially staff of color, to build more lucrative careers at Barclay Friends or elsewhere. “After the first cohort, we realized the opportunity to attract external candidates to the program and are seeking creative ways to market this program to the community,” she says.

Thirteen participants have completed the program since its launch. Nine of the participants passed their exam and became certified CNAs, and six of those individuals are still employed at Barclay Friends.

Building on Success

Five people in black graduation robes after earning CNA certificationSmith explains that the goal for the 2023 cohorts was to include a mix of internal and external students. The Barclay Friends marketing coordinator helped attract new students to the CNA training program, and the HR team reviews program applications and performs interviews to select class candidates. The Kendal Corporation’s shared employee intranet site and the Barclay Friends external website also serve to inform current employees about the program.

Given the program’s performance so far, Barclay Friends has recently changed its structure. In 2024, Barclay Friends will offer an extended six-week course for individuals who don’t have prior health care experience. “We have found that those without any healthcare experience would benefit from the additional time,” says Smith.

“We know that CNA students are often people of color or immigrants from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Smith adds. “We started this program to support individuals’ career paths, provide immediate employment upon completion and opportunities for advancement. If participants choose to stay with Barclay Friends, they will have access to the tuition reimbursement program and training programs for LPN or RN positions, which would have wages starting at $28 per hour.”

While Smith hopes that program participants will stay with Barclay Friends, she notes that the area also has great hospitals and long-term care organizations. “Even if participants choose to accept employment at another venue, we want the community to know that Barclay Friends equipped them to be valuable team members, as well as providing them the opportunity to spread Kendal’s mission and philosophy of care to others,” she says.

Smith recommends that senior care communities look at the needs of their community and design programs that will support the areas they are struggling in. “I would recommend they look at their local demographic and create programs that will help grow their own organization as well as the greater community,” she says. “Starting any training program helps support the local community and offers jobs to individuals who might not otherwise be able to enter the field.”

The Barclay Friends CNA training program is helping to not only build the community’s CNA staffing levels, but it’s also supporting the larger community and the program participants. “We hope that program participants will feel empowered with the confidence of being able to do more for themselves now and in the future,” says Smith. “We want to help give them the keys to success and show them that returning to school is always possible.”

Topics: Featured Articles , Operations , Staffing , Training