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‘Something needs to change:’ CNA frustrated over senior care staff levels

RICHMOND, Va. -- Inside Tenequa Dabney’s homemade memory box are cherished memories from her journey to becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Dabney studied to become a CNA in high school despite taunting from her peers.

“I was called a professional butt wiper, I was called all sorts of names, like miniature slave, all sorts of things by peers,” Dabney said.

Yet, she was filled with a passion to help others, which began when she was a child watching nurses care for her disabled aunt.

Tenequa Dabney

Tenequa Dabney

“I saw how the nurses touched my aunt, and she was always happy about her nurses coming,” Dabney said.

At 20-years-old, Dabney remains just as excited about her career choice, and she loves her current CNA job working with the elderly, but she said that was not the case at her first workplace.

“We were often short, tired, sometimes we felt, well I know I felt a lot of times, I heard coworkers feel undervalued, not well trained, and just things of that nature,” Dabney said.

assisted living

Dabney said she felt compelled to speak out after seeing previous CBS 6 investigations about staffing issues at assisted living facilities across Central Virginia.

“My blood was kind of boiling, it really was,” Dabney said.

In our previous reports, several caregivers and family members complained about a state law that mandates just two direct care staff members per facility, no matter the number of residents, even in a dementia unit.

Dabney’s prior workplace is a nursing home, not an assisted living facility, but she said they too experienced serious staffing issues.

The reason, she believes, is that CNA’s are underappreciated, underpaid, and overworked, so few people want to pursue the career.

Tenequa Dabney

Tenequa Dabney

“As a CNA I’m the primary caregiver, I am there the majority of the time with the residents, I help them get dressed for bed, I change them, bath them, everything, I listen to them, I’m a person for them to vent to, I’m also a friend, a granddaughter, I’m everything to these people,” Dabney said.

She said something needs to change when even dedicated CNA’s like her, who want to provide the best possible care to their residents, become overwhelmed.

“Would you have put your mother in the old facility?” CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Dabney.

“No, no way. Never in a million years,” Dabney replied.

Dabney is extremely happy in her new job.

She said her new facility gets it right, but she said her new facility seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.

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