When she was one of 15 bank employees laid off from her job processing transactions on customer accounts, 52-year-old Margarita Feliciano decided to go back to the work she enjoyed when she was in her 20s – taking care of patients in their homes.
“To me, it’s my calling,” said Feliciano, who completed the certified-nursing-assistant training at Crossroads Rhode Island in 2011, got her license and was quickly hired by Homefront Health Care in Providence.
“At the bank, I was working mostly on the phone and the computer,” she said. Now her work is much more mobile and varied.
“I like going from home to home. It’s more one-on-one and you have the opportunity to know your patient very well,” Feliciano said. “There are a lot of patients who are ill at all different ages and they need different kinds of assistance.”
Her youngest patient was a 6-year-old boy with a disability. One of her current patients had a stroke and uses a cane. She helps him with some range-of-motion movements, prepares meals and does household tasks like washing dishes.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in the CNA field, if you’re willing to work,” Feliciano said.
With Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 8.8 percent stubbornly above the national rate of 7.5 percent, home-care agencies say CNA jobs are plentiful after training and licensing. They report average starting-wage ranges from $10-$13 an hour, with increases up to a few additional dollars relatively quickly with experience and good job performance.
Those who are willing to work during hard-to-fill evening and weekend times have even more opportunity to add up hours at slightly higher wages.
“It’s hard work and not everyone is cut out to be a CNA,” said Bob Caffrey, president and CEO of Homefront Health Care, a nonprofit with six offices in Rhode Island and 350 employees, of which 250 are CNAs. Employees often have a choice of the lower end of the pay scale in exchange for medical and other benefits, he said.
“Being a CNA takes internal skills. You have to have a lot of empathy as well as a thick skin,” Caffrey said. “You’re dealing with people at a time they’re losing their health and their independence.