College of Public Health

The Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences at the University of Georgia is seen in Athens, Ga. This building is one of many that makes up the College of Public Health. (Photo/Hannah Pap Rocki, hannahpaprocki@gmail.com)

In order to combat the shortage of certified nursing assistants in Georgia, the University of Georgia College of Public Health’s Institute for Disaster Management and Institute of Gerontology has launched an initiative to increase the amount of CNAs in the state.

Throughout Georgia, CNAs are needed in long-term care facilities – or nursing homes, said Austin Dobbs, a program coordinator at the Institute for Disaster Management.

“They really do form the backbone and a vital component of that workforce,” Dobbs said.

While they remain a vital part of the staff, Dobbs said, unfortunately, much like in many other areas of the workforce, there's a significant shortage.

“As a CNA, I'll help them [patients] with any activities of daily living like showering, dressing, bathing, incontinence care, teeth brushing or anything like that somebody might not be able to do for themselves,” said Natalie Roberts, a certified CNA and senior at UGA.

In order to increase the number of CNAs, a marketing campaign is being conducted to spread awareness of the profession, said Curt Harris, director of the Institute for Disaster Management and associate professor at UGA.

The initiative started in April 2022 and ends in March 2024. The campaign has worked to gain attention by placing over 100 billboards across Georgia, receiving about 11 million views a week, Harris said.

As a part of the initiative, 500 stipends are being offered, each worth $5,000, Dobbs said. According to Harris, the billboards have contributed to an influx of people applying for the stipends.

“These stipends are available to any individual around the state who is wanting to become a CNA and is willing to go through one of the approved training programs in Georgia,” Dobbs said.

Through marketing efforts and speaking engagements, the institute is trying to increase the knowledge around what it means to be a CNA, Harris said.

“We [CNAs] support the nurses and the doctors by doing some of the dirtier work sometimes,” Roberts said. “I think [these skills] can give health care providers, like future doctors, anybody that needs that experience, a better respect for CNAs.”