Recognizing National Nursing Assistants Week with Culix Wibonele
To commemorate National Nursing Assistants Week, we spoke with Culix Wibonele, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) at Orchard at Brookhaven in Atlanta, GA. We last spoke to Culix shortly before the pandemic, when she shared how much joy she found in being a CNA, despite the job’s high stress and low wages. More than three years later, she still loves her job and is pursuing a nursing degree, with plans to continue to serve long-term care clients as a registered nurse (RN).
Each morning, Culix’s day starts with a promise for her residents. “I’m here today, and my residents need me. What can I do to make the day worth it for them?” From the break of dawn until the end of her eight-hour shift, her residents become her family.
Culix’s journey as a CNA began nine years ago, shortly before the pandemic. Back then, she shared how she found immense joy in her work, undeterred by the high stress and low wages. More than three years later, her passion for the job remains undiminished. But as the world evolves, so do her aspirations. Culix is now looking to step beyond her role as a CNA and reach for the broader horizons of an RN.
Becoming an RN is not just about personal advancement for Culix—it’s about achieving a better understanding of her current role and its impacts. “I wish the government had a better understanding of what we do as CNAs,” she admits. “Everything related to resident care begins with the CNA.” Her words encapsulate a day in the life of a CNA, highlighting the integral role they play in resident care. It is a role steeped in responsibility, requiring an in-depth understanding of each resident’s behavior, mood, and physical condition.
Yet, the journey is far from smooth. “There is such a shortage of CNAs right now, which is very frustrating,” Culix confesses. “Residents get agitated when their care is disrupted, and that’s not fair to them.” The ripple effect of the CNA shortage exacerbates an already strained system, leading to overworked staff and heightened risks of injuries and accidents. This cycle of stress and insufficient support has seen many CNAs leave the profession, further exacerbating the crisis.
Despite these challenges, Culix remains undeterred. “Every day, I’m doing more than what is in my job description, but I’m being paid minimum wage as a CNA,” she confides. “I don’t mind the additional work because I’m getting more experience and knowledge. But wouldn’t it be better to get paid more?”
While striving to balance her demanding job and family life, Culix is nearing the end of her first year in nursing school. She dreams of a role where she can earn more, have a more flexible schedule, and spend more quality time with her family. Yet, the financial strain of her son’s special needs – his insurance, therapies, and treatments – weigh heavily on her. The support from her community and her employer, who helps in scheduling work around her classes, has been a saving grace amidst these challenges.
Culix envisions her future as an RN, continuing her hands-on approach with patients but with the added authority that her new role will afford her. “I would eventually like to come back to a facility like I work in now, but with more authority than I do as a CNA,” she says. As an RN, she aims to engage more closely with her residents, advocating for their needs while also fostering stronger communication and appreciation for CNAs.