QUINCY -- Kim Straube cuts right to the chase when approached about the ongoing shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants.
"The need is unbelievable," said Straube, a licensed practical nurse who coordinates the John Wood Community College CNA program.
Straube, who at one time was the director of nursing at Sunset Nursing Home and is a former CNA herself, said an expanded need for CNAs started to grow about a decade ago as more and more baby boomers began reaching their mid-to-late 60s and beyond.
The amount of CNAs simply has not kept up with an aging population that is not only growing in numbers, but in the length of their lives. "More people are living longer these days," Straube said.
The Centers for Disease Control reports the average life expectancy in the United States is now just under 80 years. That's about five years longer than just 20 years ago.
"I saw the (need for more CNAs) starting back in about 2008 or 2009," Straube said. "I can tell you there is an overwhelming need for them."
CNAs provide hands-on and often intimate health care to patients in medical settings, particularly nursing homes. They assist with bathing, dressing and many basic activities of life. A day in the life of a CNA may include:
º Turning or repositioning bedridden patients.
º Taking patients' temperature, blood pressure and other vital signs.
º Documenting patients' health issues and reporting to nurses.
º Feeding patients, measuring and recording their food and liquid intake.
º Cleaning rooms and bed linens.
º Helping with medical procedures.
º Dressing wounds.
Patty Lipp, who will turn 60 later this year, has been a CNA for 38 years at Lutheran Manor in Hannibal, Mo.
"It's a hard, hard job," said Lipp, who plans on working another two to five years. "It's hard, but very rewarding. I've made a lot of friends."
Lipp, who said she enjoys the one-on-one relationships that CNAs often build with those under their care, is not surprised at the attention the CNA shortage is now receiving.
"We've seen (that shortage) growing for several years," she said.
Straube said numerous health-care facilities in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri are in regular contact with her about potential CNA graduates from JWCC. Starting pay for a CNA can range from slightly above minimum wage to about $18 an hour.
The need for CNAs is not just a growing regional problem.
The Population Reference Bureau indicates the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to reach 98 million over the coming three decades, which is almost 20 million more than are currently in that age bracket.