Amid staff shortages, Lakewood Retirement Community chaplain training to become nurse aide

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Being the full-time chaplain at Lakewood Retirement Community comes naturally for Julie Gaines Walton. Becoming a nurse aide, however, never crossed her mind.

Many long-term care facilities continue to face critical staffing shortages as COVID-19 sickens residents and workers in facilities nationwide. Gaines Walton is among a group of four front-desk workers at Lakewood working to become part of the solution by training to be a temporary nurse aide.

“I just didn’t really think twice about it, and decided like all the other nurse aids, we want to help our residents,” Gaines Walton said. “I’ve found it to be a lot more enjoyable and meaningful than I thought I would.” 

Nursing aides’ responsibilities include helping residents with throughout-the-day activities, such as getting dressed, eating, and going to the bathroom.

In March, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services tried to help struggling facilities by issuing a temporary waiver of current training requirements. The waiver allowed temporary nurse aides to fill gaps left vacant as a result of the crisis.

Still, Gaines Walton told 8News the training hasn’t been easy. 

“I have noticed my back’s a little more sore than normal,” she said. That’s expected, as Gaines Walton says she’s been on her feet for weeks training.

As part of the training, nursing aides must complete an online course and take a quiz. Then, applicants shadow other certified nursing aides while getting hands-on training. Gaines Walton says she’s ready for the challenging, but rewarding new journey.

“I know that I’m doing something good in the world and that gives me hope, keeps me going,” Gaines Walton told 8News. “That gets me up and ready to go in the morning. I know that I’m going to look back and say that I did everything that I could to get us through this.”

Gaines Walton completes her training on Wednesday. Afterward, she’ll begin filling shifts on the frontlines.

But health concerns at the facility lingers.

Lakewood is one of many local long-term care facilities struggling with staffing shortages after staff members were diagnosed with COVID-19. 8News learned Tuesday that three certified nursing assistants tested positive for the virus on Monday, May 11, according to the senior living community’s website.

“These team members are asymptomatic but are self-quarantining at home. Lakewood’s leadership team will follow guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the date that these team members can return to work,” officials wrote. “As of May 11, Lakewood has two residents who have COVID-19: One resident lives in the health services building, and the other lives in independent living. There are currently four total staff members who have COVID-19, all of whom are recuperating at home.” 

Lakewood Retirement Community

A handful of other residents and staff members have contracted the virus since early April when both a housekeeping employee and nurse practitioner were the first reported staff members to catch the virus. According to community representatives, all who have been sick have recovered or are currently recovering. 

According to their website, representatives from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) conducted an onsite infection control survey on April 24. The representatives reviewed policies, procedures, staff education and staffing plans and found zero deficiencies. Team members, however, will continue to wear N95 respirators and gloves on all units in assisted living.

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