Traveling CNAs feel welcome, fill need at Kittson Healthcare Nursing Home
By Anna Jauhola
Kittson Healthcare Nursing Home is currently host to three traveling certified nursing assistants.
Cota Cooper, Alex Kam and Enock Brookins-Kotey have worked at several facilities throughout South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota as CNAs.
“I call this place the best so far,” Alex said.
Both Cota and Enock agreed. All three said they love the people – staff and residents – and have started to acclimate to the weather. The trio works for DTN Staffing, formerly known as Dakota Travel Nurse, which is based in Mandan, N.D.
Cindy Urbaniak, nursing home administrator for Kittson Healthcare, said they began contracting CNAs through DTN in late summer 2018 due to a shortage of staff.
“They bring much-needed relief for our staff,” Urbaniak said of the traveling CNAs. “They have really helped our staff cut down on the number of call-ins because they’re not getting burnt out.”
She added that Cota, Alex and Enock are patient and kind, and get along well with the staff and love the residents.
“I’m from a big city where there’s tons of people for work,” Cota said. “But there’s too much staff and I’d get sent home. In small towns around Minnesota, they have problems finding staff. So this traveling job helps them a lot.”
A perk of working through DTN is the company rents a house in town for the CNAs to use when they are on shift.
Cota stays there the most, while Alex lives in Grand Forks and Enock lives in Fargo.
Enock will stay in town while he works three weeks in a row at Kittson Healthcare and then spends a weekend at home.
Alex drives in from Grand Forks for his shifts, and has learned to take it slowly as he went in the ditch once this winter.
“I was working in South Dakota for a while, but I wanted a place closer to Grand Forks,” Alex said. “Grafton is where I usually work, but I wanted to pick up shifts and had never worked in Minnesota before. I like to discover new places.”
Alex and Enock came to the United States in 2015 and 2013 respectively, but had grown up together in Africa. Alex was a street kid in his home country of Burkina-Faso and Enock lived in neighboring Ghana. The two met when Enock invited Alex to attend church. Eventually, Enock’s family adopted Alex and they became brothers.
Both men received educations, but neither could find jobs.
“The system is so choked because the economy is bad,” Enock said.
Enock had started working for DTN and enjoyed it, so he told Alex about the opportunity. Alex was not immediately interested in the position, but found it to be rewarding.
Employees throughout DTN receive texts almost daily advertising facilities that need CNAs, Cota said, which gives all three of them plenty of opportunity. Although any facility has its own struggles, Alex and Enock said they’ve come across many uncomfortable situations. They experienced some employees across North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota who weren’t welcoming, perhaps because they didn’t care for traveling CNAs or because they didn’t seem comfortable with their culture.
“But here, they don’t think that way,” Alex said. “Where you feel more comfortable is where you work best.”
Once he found that out, Alex told Enock about Kittson Healthcare.
“It’s not complicated like other places,” Enock said. “Every place has its challenges, but it’s a nice place. I love it, I love the residents. It’s amazing that the people around here are 90, 95 and 99. It’s the first time I’ve seen people in their hundreds.”
One of Enock’s favorite centenarian residents is Ebba Sandberg. He said she is always smiling and fun to joke around with.
“I told her if I ever have a daughter, I will name her after Ebba,” he said. “I looked up the meaning of Ebba and it is ‘strong.’”
Cota, Alex and Enock have all re-upped their contracts to continue working at Kittson Healthcare.
“I don’t know what it is about Kittson County, but I keep renewing my contract,” Alex said.