Today we will take a break from the house, amazing though it is and look at an entirely different subject.
I am currently an employee of the Bradford County Manor, a local nursing home. I hold the position of a CNA, or Certified Nursing Assistant. This is a big, fancy title that really means I am the doer of dirty jobs and a professional bottom wiper. I once had a resident ask me if I was good at wiping, to which I replied "Absolutely. I'm even certified by the state." It's true.
Thankfully however, my job has many other aspects that have to do with the residents and their activities of daily living. I help dress, shower, bath, toilet, ambulate, transport, feed and change them. Not everyone needs the same level of care. Some residents may only need me to deliver their meal tray and get them a bedside commode at night. Other residents require me to perform all the care, and do not participate at all.
I don't really think anyone can fully understand what being a CNA is like unless they have, as the popular saying goes, walked a mile in their shoes. Being a CNA is definitely different from any of the other jobs I have held. It has given me a lot of experiences in a large number of areas. It has also opened my eyes and made me think. There are a ton of things that I could tell you: like how strange it was to do post-mortem care, how hard it is when some you are trying to help thinks you're trying to hurt them, what it's like to listen to someone yell all night long, how disgusting it is when poop gets where your gloves are not, and some of my fears, such as someone going to the bathroom while I'm giving them a bath. There are so many other things to tell, too. However, I realize that a lot of them would be rather disgusting to read about, besides which it would take a LOT of typing to get them all down. I'll try to stick to relating just a small part of what my job is like.
For one thing, I am constantly aware that there is a real art to dealing with people. I mean, a real, complex, hard to grasp art. How a resident acts and respond to me as a caregiver has a lot to do with my approach when I first enter the room. It also depends on my personality and the resident's personality and mood. Each resident is different, and requires a different approach on my part. I have to check myself to see if I am approaching a resident appropriately. For some residents I need to be nice, smiley and sweet. For some I need to offer lots of choices and explain every little thing that is going on. Others require me to be firm and decisive. Sometimes it's a very hard thing to accomplish. Occasionally there is that resident who will try to take advantage of the fact that I don't normally care for them. It can be hard to distinguish the line between providing the proper care and getting walked all over and taking advantage of. Overall, it's helped me realize that when I get a sharp answer or response from someone else, rather than think it's all them, I need to check myself and see what my attitude is. As a Haitian proverb goes, as you come you will be received.
Another thing that is really critical to being a CNA and that is also a valuable thing for life in general is time management and handling stress. As a CNA, as soon as I arrive on my unit, I undertake the responsibility of caring for my residents. On any given night I can have anywhere from 8-12 residents, depending on what the unit census is and the number of CNA's. Time management is critical. I need to make sure that all my residents get the care they need, ranging from being toileted, fed, dressed, changed, washed up, given their snacks, and put to bed. I also generally have one shower a night to give, various vital signs to get for the nurse, and all my charting on the care I provide. I have to figure out who needs what, when and then divide my time accordingly so that all my work is done by 11:30 pm. I have to make sure I am making the most of my time and not wasting it diddling around doing nothing.
Coupled with that time management is a lot of stress. 12 residents is a lot of people to be responsible for. They are depending on me, and I am responsible for their basic care. Any bruises, skin tears, injuries, or complaints are on me if I don't do my job correctly. I have to be able to deal with the knowledge that lots of people want me NOW, several call bells going off at once, as well as the requests for help from co-workers. Sometimes, it seems like more than I can handle.
But I've learned that when someone keeps constantly ringing their call bell, a resident I am trying to help is cursing me out, everyone thinks they are the only resident and forgets that I am just one person, or someone has been yelling all night and refuses to stop that I just have to keep smiling. I have to keep going. If I don't keep going, my residents won't get the care they need. So when I want to quit, cry, scream, or feel like I belong on the dementia/Alzheimer's unit, I ask God to help me. And you know what? He does. Every time. Every time I feel like I've lost my mind, that I just cannot deal with that rude, ignorant, or annoying resident one more time, or that the night is never going to end, the night does end. God gives me the strength to roll that very large person one more time, the mind to think about what I need to do, and the patience to deal with that rude, ignorant or annoying resident one more time.
Despite all the craziness, and maybe because of it, I love my job. Singing "Stay on the Sunny Side", dancing, bantering, talking and laughing with my residents makes it all worth it. Even if eleven of my residents curse me, yell at me, hit me, spit at me, or are rude and inappropriate, the smile and thank you from the twelfth is enough. And yes, a paycheck every other Friday helps me endure, but only God can help when the nights are terrible. He is the one who has shown me the joy in my job and made me thankful that I do what I do. Even if it is only for a season, I am thankful that He has allowed me to do it.