Feedback for new CNAs has traditionally followed a tell-or-yell model. You know the old way of thinking: training doesn’t get them ready for the real world. You don’t have time to explain why what they are doing is wrong – they just need to do as you say – that type of thinking. To be sure, that may still happen out there, particularly when the going gets rough, but it should be the exception, rather than the rule.
The reality is that new CNAs, especially younger ones, come into our organizations expecting a feedback loop — and we owe it to them. Communication has to flow in both directions in order for relationships to flourish.
Let’s think for a moment about the ramifications of continuing the tell-or-yell model in today’s healthcare. We all have hard jobs – no doubt – but CNAs take on many heavy responsibilities – all to be performed for frail (and sometimes cranky) residents and in front of their families, peers, bosses, and heaven knows who else. In their first 90 days, most CNAs are scared to death at the enormity of it all. How we interact with CNAs in this early window directly impacts whether or not we build a CNA that can thrive in the fast-paced environment of long-term care.
Effective feedback loops do a variety of things you might not even realize:
- They are instrumental in enabling your new CNA to process information and learn your preferred way of doing things. They need to understand why your process is what it is so they can use their own decision-making skills for their next encounter. This, in turn, builds a more self-sufficient CNA.
- CNAs possess a unique view of your operation. Things that you don’t even see, they pick up on quickly. It’s a good idea to stop and consider what your CNA to say.
- QAPI requirements call for your CNAs to participate in problem-solving for the organization. They need to be taught what critical thinking means to a CNA and to be ready to apply problem-solving techniques daily.
- Healthy feedback loops break down barriers between management and staff. You need these lines of communication to be there to facilitate change of condition information flow – a high liability touchpoint.
- Healthy feedback loops foster a sense of teamwork peer to peer. If we teach our new hires good feedback practices with each other, we build a sense of community and culture that keeps our organizations going in good and bad times.
- They are one of the most effective ways to combat turnover and increase retention. We spend a third of our lives with our coworkers. Our relationships with others are a key determinant if we feel we’re in the right place.
It is easy to take the path of least resistance and be directive, but harsh criticisms without explanations of why or how to do better act as a disservice to everyone.
Consider these best practices:
- Try to be private in your corrections and public in your praise. Unless life or limb is at stake, corrections across a room or down a hallway are not pretty for anyone.
- Even when providing corrective feedback, try to show rather than tell. It’s more collaborative. “You didn’t quite get x right. Let me show you how.”
- Tone is everything. New hires are hyper aware of frustration in your voice or body language.
- Acknowledge all the steps in the process they have mastered when correcting a portion. In other words, let them know what they did well so that negative feedback is not all they hear.
- Ask for their “Do you see why it’s done this way?” or “What would happen if we left x like that?” are some ways you can tie up a teaching conversation.
- Try striking up a conversation about some learning topic they have recently covered. “How would you apply what you’ve studied to x?” It does two things. It lets them know you are interested in what they are learning, and it sets the expectation that they might have a conversation with you at some point in the future, so remembering the training is important. Even with a simple compliance topic, you want them taking that knowledge out of the classroom onto the floor. Make that a habit and set that expectation.
- Take a deep breath before your interactions, even when you are crazy busy. Remember you are aiming to build someone who will want to work with you for the long term.
- If you do have to do a drive by correction and move on, make it a personal practice to take the time to go back and make sure they understood their mistake and talk about what happened. It lets them know you care about them and want them to do their best. It’s what leaders do and managers forget.
We all want to work in organizations that respect our abilities. What we think and feel are as important as what we know and do. CNAs are no different.
CNA Edge provides the tools facilities need to better support their management staff and front-line workers
Building a better CNA and keeping them is a fundamental building block for our continued success as providers. Residents, patients and their families deserve no less. We at Straightaway have the tools you need to better support your staff. Take a look at CNA Edge to learn how we can help.