Staff through the flags

Staff at the Cameron Veterans Home practice singing for an ensemble that will be presented to the troops who reside in the home.

The Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron is working to boost admissions in the wake of staffing issues.

Since October of last year, the facility has accepted new veterans only intermittently because of a lack of certified nursing assistants to staff all of the available beds.

Kenneth Rucker, a Navy gunner’s mate and Army Reserve veteran, said CNAs have to possess empathetic skills and a calm demeanor.

“It takes a special person, and they gotta have a big heart and a soft voice,” Rucker said. “To all these guys, a smile and a soft voice can get them to do anything.”

Executive Director Col. Grace Link of the Missouri Veterans Commission said CNAs typically undergo eight to 12 weeks of training, and a new batch of that staff will finish free training at the veteran’s home in Cameron in August.

She added the waiting list of veterans looking to gain admission to the home is not as long as some may think.

“I asked for a review of all the admission applications, and there were many folks on that list that did not meet the requirements for long-term skilled nursing care,” Link said. “The good news is there’s only 29 people that are waiting to come in.”

The Cameron Veterans Home provides free training to CNAs and soon a wage-shift differential may help retain some talent at the home.

“That’s made a big difference,” Link said. “We’re also looking at retention grants that the Department of Veteran Affairs has authorized for us to use.”

Those grants could bring $500 as an incentive for CNAs who stay six months, and they also offer another incentive at one year and at 18 months.

“We have wonderful staff that devote their lives to taking care of other people,” Link said. “So we’re really doing everything we can to take care of them.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requires 2.5 nursing care hours per patient, per day, according to Brad Haggard, assistant homes director for the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“Our goal is to always exceed that, and this past month it was 3.4,” Haggard said. “We know the more hours we provide, the better care we’re going to provide.”

Ryan Hennessy can be reached at ryan.hennessy@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.