Perspectives of certified nursing assistants and administrators on staffing the nursing home frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic

Emily Franzosa, Wingyun Mak, Orah R. Burack, Alene Hokenstad, Faith Wiggins, Kenneth S. Boockvar, Joann P. Reinhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify best practices to support and grow the frontline nursing home workforce based on the lived experience of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and administrators during COVID-19. Study setting: Primary data collection with CNAs and administrators in six New York metro area nursing homes during fall 2020. Study design: Semi-structured interviews and focus groups exploring staffing challenges during COVID-19, strategies used to address them, and recommendations moving forward. Data collection: We conducted interviews with 6 administrators and held 10 focus groups with day and evening shift CNAs (n = 56) at 6 nursing homes. Data were recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed through directed content analysis using a combined inductive and deductive approach to compare perceptions across sites and roles. Principal findings: CNAs and administrators identified chronic staffing shortages that affected resident care and staff burnout as a primary concern moving forward. CNAs who felt most supported and confident in their continued ability to manage their work and the pandemic described leadership efforts to support workers' emotional health and work–life balance, teamwork across staff and management, and accessible and responsive leadership. However, not all CNAs felt these strategies were in place. Conclusions: Based on priorities identified by CNAs and administrators, we recommend several organizational/industry and policy-level practices to support retention for this workforce. Practices to stabilize the workforce should include 1) teamwork and person-centered operational practices including transparent communication; 2) increasing permanent staff to avoid shortages; and 3) evaluating and building on successful COVID-related innovations (self-managed teams and flexible benefits). Policy and regulatory changes to promote these efforts are necessary to developing industry-wide structural practices that target CNA recruitment and retention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-913
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • CNA
  • COVID-19
  • certified nursing assistant
  • long-term care
  • nursing home
  • workforce


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