Goldilocks and the Three Nursing Assistants

I have said if before and I will say it a million more times over the course of my life; it takes a very special type of person to be a certified nursing assistant. I do not mean that you have to have a certain IQ level or be an expert at scrubbing up. When I say special, I mean it as it pertains to your personality, heart and soul. Being a CNA requires you to do work that is both physically demanding and emotionally demanding.  The majority of CNA’s who quit their jobs do so because of the heavy emotional toll it can take. Take into consideration the following examples of who can and should be a CNA, and those who have no business working with people who depend on them for their very life essence.

This CNA is Too Cold

When I first began working as a CNA at a nursing home, I saw some things that will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. The example that stands out the most deals with a total care patient who could only communicate through facial expressions. I was doing my orientation with a not so friendly aide who was constantly aggravated by the patients needs. We had just left Miss Total Cares room after cleaning up a large bowel movement. The aide did not talk to Miss Total Care the entire time she was cleaning her, she simply went through the motions (none too gently) and left. Less than 10 minutes later we were called back to the same room because Miss Total Care had another very large bowel movement. The minute we were in the room with the door closed, the aid began talking as if the patient was not only immobile, but deaf and dumb as well. She went on about how she cannot believe how much Miss Total Care “craps” and how she is sick of having to wipe her “butt”. This poor patient could only lay there as the aid flipped her around, cleaned her up (roughly) and cursed about how she could not believe she had to clean her up yet again. In case there is any confusion, this aid had no business caring for a dog let alone an aged woman who had zero control over her own body. (The aid was fired in short order…somebody reported her. *WINK WINK*)   Unfortunately I have seen this type of behavior a lot over the past 12 years and it makes me sick every time. ALWAYS report any negative or harmful behavior to your supervisor. You have to be a voice for your patients.

This CNA is Too Hot

Too hot or too cold? Which one are you?

Next you have an aide that cares so much that it hurts. This was me. My first six months at the nursing home put me in a major funk after we lost 12 patients. When I had a patient who was nearing death I would work an extra shift so I could spend as much time with them as I could before they left me. I would cry when it was over and go to the funerals. I could not get my work done in a timely manner because I couldn’t say no when someone asked me to stop and talk or give them a glass of water – whatever. I couldn’t say no when someone needed me. I had the heart to be there but not the emotional balance to be a productive employee. This is why I moved on to other nursing venues.

This CNA is Just Right

Finally, you have the aid who loves their patients. They do everything they can to provide quality care with just the right mixture of human emotion and love. This aid spoke to all her patients with respect and knew when she had to say no and get to the rest of her duties, even though she would come back later to see what she could do once her other work was complete. She was human so she did get aggravated sometimes but this was never shown on her face or heard in her voice. When one of her patients died, she mourned but did not let it ruin the work for her because she knew others needed her to do her job well. The bottom line is that this aide really cared and knew how to handle the emotions that come with caring. This is what I mean by a special person. There are not many like this. So many just view this as a job to be done and a paycheck to be collected. They do not look past the faces of those they care for and see that there was once vibrant life present behind those wrinkles and liver spots and this is what it takes to make a wonderful CNA. I do not have what it takes to do this job in a nursing home and that is why I left, but maybe you do have that something special that this job requires. If not, do not feel badly. Lots of aides cannot cut it in a nursing home environment.  There are lots of other areas they can focus on and if nursing is really what they love, they will be able to carve out their niche somewhere, and once they do, they will be much appreciated!

This article is the second of a series of  articles that talk about how work is when you’re a certified nursing assistant. The article above and the thoughts expressed therein are those of the author, Tanya Glover who is a practicing CNA. 

2 Responses to Goldilocks and the Three Nursing Assistants

  1. Heidi May 24, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    As a CNA working in an assisted living facility, I wholeheartedly agree with this, and I love the way you described it as too hot or too cold. You are right. It certainly does take a special kind of person to work with the aged population.
    For myself, I found in the beginning that I was the too hot kind. I couldn’t say no, and I still struggle with wanting to help everyone at the cost of getting everyone else toileted.

    I think the key to being the just right kind of CNA is to think of them as you would want to be treated yourself when you are in this position, or consider them as if you were treating your own grandparents (and hopefully you would treat your grandparents with as much love and consideration). You also have to kind of distance yourself and remember that there are others who need help and you have to keep enough energy so you aren’t pouring too much energy into some people and not enough for the others.

  2. Tanya May 30, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Good advice Heidi!

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