Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loyalty, Compassion and a Good Constitution

In my mind, the three things that should be required for a CNA are loyalty, compassion, and a good constitution. If anyone can figure out a reliable way to test for these, let me know. Our work environments would improve greatly if everyone had these qualities.

I put loyalty first just because it's the most important to me. I don't mean loyal to your employer, I mean loyal to the residents. These folks live here year in and year out and just watch the help come and go and sometimes come back again. It must be hard for them to adjust to new people and personalities all the time. I have one resident who won't deal with new co-workers at all. They have dementia and seeing new faces puts them on the defensive. Now that I've been there for more than a year, while they don't know me, I think they recognize me. Most days they'll allow me to care for them and give them their medication. They'll smile and talk to me as best they can. If a new person tries to care for them, they get suspicious and refuse help, medication and anything else they can say "no" to.

Compassion is a no-brainer. No one wants to live in a Nursing Center. Sure, some of them become resigned to it, but none of them are really happy to be there. Being compassionate means comforting them and empathizing with them. This includes being kind even when they are angry, but being firm if you can't honor their requests. (I run into this a lot when a resident wants a pill that they don't have an order for. Sure, we have that pill in-house somewhere, but if they don't have an order for it, we can't give it.) It means offering alternatives when they can't have what they want. It means saying "What can I do for you?" instead of "What do you want?" when you enter their room. It means taking a moment after you've completed their care to see if there's anything else they need before rushing out the door. It means resisting the urge to put words in their mouths when they hesitate mid-sentence. The previously mentioned resident speaks in a word salad and gets angry when you try to correct them or fill in the blanks for them. I've learned to let them hunt for the word they want and try to figure out what they mean at the end of the sentence. Patience is a large part of compassion in this environment.

A good constitution is necessary because a lot of times we find ourselves working sick or injured. And we need to be willing to work, if possible, when we're ill or hurt. (Personally, my rule is that unless I'm vomiting, have diarrhea that can't be controlled with Immodium, or have a fever that can't be controlled with Tylenol, I'm working. And don't talk to me about spreading germs, we have gloves and masks and frankly, most of the time, we're contagious 24 hours before we even know we're sick, so we've already "shared the love" before we had to start taking Nyquil to sleep.) We need strong backs and strong hands because our residents need us to be their strength. We need to be able to smile and be kind even when our heads are pounding or our throats are sore. If I could infuse every cup of coffee or iced tea we drank with a +5 Constitution, I would.

Which brings me back to my initial question: How do we test for these qualities? Even if we had a test for them, would the people who had them even apply for the job? If a person doesn't have these qualities, can they be taught?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Seeing How the Other Half Lives

Well, after a week off, I'm back at it.

It was very interesting yesterday. When we have two Med Aides, we physically split the Nursing Center in half. They've had me working the same half since March 2. Guess where I was last night?

The other half.

I made it through relatively unscathed. I think the key was not getting frazzled and just working my way through the cart one resident at a time. I didn't get but one break, but then I never do when there's only two of us. And I got done with the last pass on time, which was a gift. Although when I woke up this morning I realized that I hadn't returned my eyedrops to their proper place. They're probably using my name as a swear word right about now.

All in all, it wasn't bad. It was nice seeing the residents that I don't get to talk to much when they have me insulated over on the other side. They seemed happy to see me for a change, too.


On another note, we may be losing our ISP as of May 31 which means posts may be sporadic since I'll have to post from the Library. Once we find a new provider and get them out here to set up their equipment, then I'll get back to regular posting.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On hiatus

I'm putting the blog on hiatus until May 27th. Really, I'm just trying to get through the next three days of work and then I'm on vacation. I plan on being rested and refreshed and ready to write when I get done.

Talk to you later.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grandma Prison

Yes, I said it. But it's not original. I got it from an episode of The Brak Show:

I don't remember which episode it is, but Zorak is threatened with having to go back to "Grandma Prison" if he doesn't do... something that I can't remember.

In any event, my son now teases me that I work in Grandma Prison.

And I wouldn't have thought any more about it except that yesterday, my charge nurse was telling everyone that a couple of residents were "trying to escape".

So what's the point of this post. It's about how we think about where we work and what we do. Do you think you work at "Grandma Prison"? Are you "just an ***wiper"? Or "just a pill pusher"?

Our job is hard. We do things that few people want to do or have time to do. We talk to people that few others can understand. (Word salad anyone?) Many times, we become family to these residents, even if their families come to visit them regularly. Their families can't be there to hold their heads while they're vomiting, but we can and do.

We don't work at "Grandma Prison". Yes, we are ***wipers and pill pushers, but we are more than the sum of our parts. We become a part of our residents lives that is at least as important as their families. Everytime we smile and listen to a resident, even if we can only guess at what they're saying, we make their lives better. We need to revise our way of thinking and be proud of what we do. Our residents know our value. We need to acknowledge it, too.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Chocolate Pudding Incident and Other Tales...

"Miss?" (I get called "Miss" and "Ma'am" and occasionally "Sir" a lot. I also answer to "Hey You".)

"What can I do for you?" I yelled as I walked into the room.

"Well, can you help me with this?" they asked, plucking at their hospital gown.

It, and they, were covered in chocolate pudding.

And then they started laughing. Uproariously.

"I kept trying to rub at it and it just kept getting bigger and bigger." More laughing.

About fifteen minutes later, they were clean, dry, wearing a new hospital gown and had clean sheets on the bed.

"You know," I said, "we have a bathtub here. Next time you want to bathe in chocolate pudding, let us know and we'll fill it up for you."

They started laughing again.


"Can I help you?" I asked, preparing to get behind the resident's wheelchair and give them a push.

"Oh, just destroy me," they said, disgruntled.

"Destroy you?" I asked. "I don't get paid to do that. That's an extra charge."

"Oh..." they said. And then they started giggling.


"Can I give you this vitamin before you run off?" I asked, handing the resident a glass of water.

They laughed. "I can guarantee you one thing: I ain't gonna be runnin' nowhere."

Monday, May 4, 2009

ISP issues, yet again.

We've been having trouble with our ISP. Today it seems slightly better, but with more storms coming this week, I don't have a lot of hope for it to stay up.

I've got a couple posts I want to make and plan on getting at least one polished and up tomorrow.