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Persevering despite the pandemic

Starting as a new nursing assistant in the middle of a pandemic proved to be tough. A former kitchen aide, Martha's first day as a CNA was so overwhelming she almost walked away. But she persevered. Now she’s setting her eyes on advancing her career further in the medical field.

Juggling two jobs and school pays off for a nursing home worker

Starting a new career can be overwhelming for anybody, but doing it as a new nursing assistant in the middle of a pandemic presents its own challenges. For Martha Espinosa-Silva, trying to answer the questions from the people she takes care of are the toughest.

“They’re always asking, ‘When can I go out? Can my family come and see me?,’” she says. “They’re asking me these questions and I don’t really have an answer.”

Espinosa-Silva is a Restorative Nursing Assistant (RNA) at Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre (West) in Inglewood, where she helps residents with rehabilitation and therapy so they can improve their quality of life.

The coronavirus has devastated nursing homes across the nation. In California alone, more than 154,400 cases and 12,998 deaths have been reported at facilities across the state.

“It’s very tough. We’re there (in the facility) regardless of whatever’s going on. And it’s a lot of things that you have to think about. You got to take care of yourself, your residents and the people around you. And we have families that we go home to, so you make sure that you’re taking the proper steps to take care of them, too. So it’s been tough, but it’s getting better,” she says.

Espinosa-Silva had been working as a kitchen aide before she enrolled last summer in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and RNA certification courses offered by the Center for Caregiver Advancement (through the Education Fund).

She initially was uncertain if Centinela’s’s staffing schedule would be able to accommodate the days she needed to attend classes. Also, she was already working two jobs, one full time and another part time stint at another facility.

But with support from her supervisor and her Education Fund coordinator, she started her training. For three months, she did not have a day off: She attended her classes on weekends, in between shifts at the two facilities where she worked.

“It was a little bit hard,” she admits about juggling work, her studies and her personal life. “But I was determined that I was going to do the program, that I was going to finish it.”

And she did. She passed her state certification exam and, in August 2020, started working as a CNA.

Receiving her license was a reward for all her hard work and she was ready for her new job. However, she didn’t expect a struggle on her first day: She was so overwhelmed she almost walked away. She was used to staying behind the scenes, prepping meals in the kitchen, and not being on the floor with the residents. But she persevered.

“Everywhere you go, there’s something that challenges you as a person and it’s going to make you grow in many ways,” she says.

She found the work of a nursing assistant so meaningful that a few months later she enrolled in the Fund’s Restorative Nursing Assistant (RNA) program to move one more step forward in her career path.

“The certification that I have now, it means a lot. It’s something that is pushing me forward to either being an LVN or speech therapist. I’m holding on to this dream, for my future because I want to stay in the medical field.”

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