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Certified nursing assistants backbone of patient care at Philip Health Services, Inc.

Some of the CNA staff at Philip Health Services, Inc. Pictured are, from left: Diana Rodriguez, Marilyn Uhrig, Chelsea Tobin, Stephanie Paul, Georgia Moos, Jessica Gittings, Tom Rodriguez, Tracy Peterson and Bonnie Ehlers.

"Certified nursing assistants are the first people patients see in the morning and the last they see at night. Our building would not function without CNAs. They are our biggest customer represeatatives," said Carmen Fees, director of nursing at Philip Health Services, Inc.

An annual, national week of special recognition for CNAs was June 10-17, "which appropriately had the weekend included," noted Kent Olson, PHSI administrator. There are 40 full- and part-time CNAs, out of 140 total employees, at PHSI. Olson added, "They are the backbone of any facility such as ours. The biggest challenge for filling such positions is finding people, such as ours, who really enjoy working as a CNA."

Currently, of the 40 CNAs, four stand out in longevity at PHSI. Bonnie Ehlers began her CNA work in 1992. Donna Buxcel started CNA work in 1996. Though she started working for PHSI in another department in 1986, Deb Clements has been a CNA since 1998. Diane Walker became a CNA in 2000.

Fees said, "A CNA's job is physically and emotionally demanding, but they take pride in that they give the patients the best care in the patients' later years." Fees explained that PHSI offers a paid training to employees that is a 75-hour in-house curriculum. "Learning to be a CNA is one of the best stepping stones to other medical positions," said Fees.

A nursing assistant is a person who provides direct patient care in a hospital or nursing home. Their greatest responsibility is to provide compassionate care for the patient and they often develop strong relationships with their patients. Some of their specific tasks include taking vital signs and providing personal care such as feeding, dressing, bathing, personal hygiene and transportation for meals and activities.

A nursing assistant is an entry-level medical position, which becomes certified after passing a knowledge and skills test recognized by the South Dakota Health Care Association. A CNA is licensed by the State of South Dakota. PHSI requires a physical therapy screening to ensure an applicant is physically able to perform the job tasks.