All too often, when people hear the title ‘CNA’ (Certificed Nursing Assistant), they automatically assume that we are a lazy bunch of people that wipe butts for a living. So I decided that since I work in a nursing home that I would share what we do as CNAs. So, here we go, my everyday life as a CNA.
Every morning, I get up around 4:30 a.m., put my scrubs on, grab my belongings, and head out the door. I start my truck up, and off I go. It takes me about 10 minutes to get to work. Once I park my truck, I shut it off, sit back, and I take a deep breath.
I walk through the front door and say a very tired “good morning” to my fellow aides, and once we are all there, we start to report.
I head down my assigned hall for that day, and I start my routine for the morning.
This is where everything starts.
I walk into my first room, and turn on a dim light. I wake up my resident with a soft touch on their shoulder, and a “good morning”. As they wake up, I get all of my essentials ready. Once they are awake, I assist them with their hygiene, clothing, and if need be, their hair.
This is where it becomes so much more then a job. This is where the residents are at their most vulnerable. And they trust you. They know that you are there to help them. This is where they become more then a resident. This is where they start to become your family. You do what a lot of people cannot do. And that my friend, is — caring for someone that has become family, family that you will have to eventually do post-mortem care on. Because believe me, I have done it, and you do mourn them, because you did love that person, and they will always have a special place in your heart.
As a CNA in a nursing home, you can do so much. You do anything from answering a call light that was pressed on accident, to doing post-mortem care. We cut nails, fix hair, give showers, strip beds, and clean up the biggest of messes. The list goes on and on. But most of all, we are there when they need us most. For instance, when they are sick, weak, and scared, we are there to comfort them. Whether it is just holding your hand, reading something that they enjoy, or simply just sitting next to their bed. Sometimes just being present is all they need.
I will admit though, it is mentally, and physically hard at times. Everything that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong. You could be running late to a meal, or activity, and someone falls on the other side of the building. Or someone chokes on their meal. Or someone aspirated on one of their drinks. The list is endless. And all of these can, and will happen in one day, sometimes in one shift. But you know what? We can do it.
And you want to know why we do it? Because every time we walk through that front door, we have a job to do, and people that are counting on us. A job that makes everything worth it. Just like I said earlier, everything has gone wrong, and you feel like you are about to explode. And then something will happen. A resident pushes their call light, and you take a deep breath, and you go to check on it. You walk in just to find out that the button was pushed on accident, so you go over to turn it off, and that resident will say or do something that just made every single thing that just happened go away, and you cannot help but tear up. Everything that happens is worth it just to see them smile and to be happy.
If I had the choice to turn back time, I would still become a CNA. Because ever since I was little I have always wanted to help people, and with this job I can do that. And You know what? I love it.
With this job, you can learn so much about people and things that have happened in the past. The stories are endless.
The sad truth about this setting though, is that a lot of elderly people do not get the respect and dignity that they deserve. Or they are treated like an object that does not have emotions. For instance, if a resident cannot hear, they will not get spoken to. Or, if they can hear, but not respond, they still will not be spoken to. Another one, if they are blind, you do not ask them what they would like to wear. You get the point. Always talk to them. Whether they can respond or not. And always ask what they would like to wear. Would you like it if someone would not talk to you? Or someone picks out your outfit without telling you what it is? I did not think so, so do not do it to them. Period. Always treat others how you would like to be treated. Simple as that.
In order to do this job, you must have a big and caring heart. Yes, it will experience heartache, but it will also make it stronger.
You will laugh, and you will cry. It comes with the job.
I have done things that I never thought I would ever be able to do. I have helped people at their best. And I have helped people at their worst. I have held the hand of someone dying, I have cared for people after they have passed. You just have to remember the good times, and they are no longer in pain.
When it is time to go home at the end of my shift, I say goodbye to each of my residents, because you never know if they will be there tomorrow when you come back.
Being a CNA, my heart is heavy, my mind spins, and my feet ache. But that is just another thing that comes with the job. You get used to it.
So please think twice before you call one of us “Just a CNA”. We are so much more than that. We are someone who could possibly be taking care of a relative of yours.
So next time you see a CNA, thank them because CNA’s do not get the recognition that they should.