LISTEN: The Georgia CNA Career Pathway Initiative was prompted by a statewide shortage of certified nursing assistants. Austin Dobbs, program coordinator at UGA's Institute for Disaster management, speaks on the importance of CNAs.

Family Bridges Healthcare is hiring CNAs on Friday, December 6th.

The Georgia CNA Career Pathway Initiative aims to address a shortage of certified nursing assistants.

Credit: File photo

Researchers at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health hope to attract and retain more certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to the workforce with the help of an $11 million grant from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The Georgia CNA Career Pathway Initiative was prompted by a statewide shortage of health care workers that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Austin Dobbs the program coordinator at UGA’s Institute for Disaster Management.

“And so, a staffing problem that was already there just became a staffing crisis,” Dobbs said.

The initiative aims to address this shortage by engaging with high schools and career academies as well as introducing financial incentives for students.

The initiative is also coordinating with partners at Central Georgia Technical College and Georgia Health Care Association to develop curriculum that promotes workforce development, in addition to developing a mental health support team.

Typically the pathway to becoming a CNA includes the minimum requirement of a high school diploma or GED plus a state-approved CNA training program, clinical training hours and a certification exam.

Dobbs said he also aims to battle the misconception that because CNAs are entry level positions, the work they do isn’t important.

“[CNAs] provide so much of [residents’] direct care," he said. "[They] are very important in the early detection of problems like early detection of diseases or behavioral changes of the residents because they see them on such a regular basis, more so than really anyone else in the facility."

Dobbs said he hopes to see 2,000 new CNAs join the workforce.

We think it's ambitious, but we know there's a great need out there," Dobbs said. "So, we are really pursuing this as hard as we can and as diligently as we can.”