How does your CNA wage structure measure up?
Attracting—and keeping—good talent in long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) is about offering great corporate culture, engaging work and competitive pay. And the pay is the deciding factor, many would say. Turnover rates are consistently high in the certified nurse aide (CNA) category, so HR departments across the LTPAC continuum need to pay diligent attention to what’s going on with hourly CNA pay rates locally, regionally and across the country.
CNAs are the workhorses of daily resident care, especially in assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing settings. As of July 2018, the national average pay for a CNA is about $15 per hour, although pay rates tend to swing from $14 to $17 an hour by region and care setting.
The pay rate differentials between CNAs and other nursing positions are dramatic, and those trends have remained relatively consistent for years. In some LTPAC settings, including continuing care retirement communities and skilled nursing, CNAs often earn less than half of what other nursing positions make per hour. While CNAs earn an average of $15, an RN could make $29 per hour or more, according to data published by Hospital & Healthcare Compensations Service with support from LeadingAge. In addition, there’s plenty of disparity among LTPAC sectors: CNAs earn consistently lower wages at skilled nursing centers across the country than their CNA colleagues in assisted living settings.
Regional pay disparities will surely be on the front burner for the next few years. “Several key players in the skilled nursing mergers-and-acquisitions space identified wage pressures as a key issue for providers in 2018, as the still-booming economy gives workers more choices and bargaining power,” notes a Skilled Nursing News article. How well your organization competes for employees locally and regionally could depend on the bargaining power of your CNA wage structure.
Creating transparency in wage structure
Having a clear, consistent wage structure for all hourly workers is crucial of course, but especially when it comes to CNAs, since their turnover risk is one of the highest in the sector. Ensure that HR departments are kept current on local and regional trends in wages and have a clear system and definitions in place to ensure consistency. Take all licensing, credentialing and experience levels into account.
Recruiting talent across state lines
Having trouble finding the employees you need locally? Depending on how the average CNA pay rates in your state compare, it can be a smart move to widen the employee search and tap into CNA candidate pools in neighboring states.
There’s a surprising variance in CNA hourly pay rates among states, even for the same job title and certification level. For example, CNAs saw a differential of more than $6 per hour nationally in 2016, ranging from $16.28 per hour in North Dakota to less than $10 per hour in Louisiana.
State size doesn’t always matter: While California consistently ranks among the highest-paying states for CNAs, Connecticut and North Dakota also are among the highest nationally, notes an article based on data from the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service.
Investing in “keeper staff”
Staff CNAs who show strong skills and consistent dedication are prime targets for education and retraining to elevate them to LPNs, a job title that often earns at least $22 an hour. Providing a program for personal advancement—whether via scholarship or shared cost increments—can be a big step in keeping an excellent staff member engaged in the quality of the organization.
Positioning your organization as a good employer means putting a competitive, defined wage structure strategy at the forefront of the recruitment campaign and championing that investment in quality skills throughout the employee’s tenure.
For more information on how your state’s average CNA pay rates rank nationally, check out the CNA Careers & Salary Outlook By State, published by Nurse Journal.