Purpose: To examine the efficacy of a comprehensive behavior management skills training program for improving certified nursing assistants' (CNA) skill performance in the nursing home, to assess the effectiveness of a staff motivational system for maintaining newly acquired behavior management skills for a 6-month period, and to evaluate any resulting effects on resident agitation. Design and Methods: This study used a randomized clinical trial of 88 residents with behavior disturbances and 106 CNAs who cared for them in two urban nursing homes. After CNAs received 4 weeks of behavior management training, supervisory nursing staff implemented formal staff management (FSM), designed to maintain training effects over time. The supervisory staff used conventional staff management (CSM, usual supervisory routine) on control units. We completed behavioral observations and paper-and-pen assessments at baseline and repeated them during a 4-week post-intervention phase and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Results: During the immediate post-training phase, both the FSM and CSM groups improved five out of seven communication skills and the ability to delay physical assistance during care routines. Although CNAs showed a reduction in the use of ineffective behavior management strategies, they did not increase their use of effective behavioral strategies. Follow-up assessments suggested that the FSM system was more effective than CSM for maintaining and even improving communication skills over time. Resident agitation was reduced during care interactions and maintained at follow-up. Implications: The behavior management skills training program improved CNAs' ability to interact with behaviorally disturbed nursing home residents and produced sustained reductions in agitation. The FSM system was more effective for maintaining communication skills 6 months after training. © Oxford University Press 2002.