The other day, I found a great essay written by Mark Laughlin for the online magazine, Smile Politely. It’s obvious that Mark has a great appreciation for caregivers and understands their importance to our health care system. Here’s some of what Mark had to say:
- Nursing assistants come in all shapes and sizes. They are both male and female. Their physical appearances are different, but they all have bodies that withstand the punishing nature of the work.
- They do a lot of stuff that isn’t really in the job description. They arrange the Hallmark cards next to the bed, dial the phone for residents who can’t do it themselves and clean out the whiskers that are clogging the blades of the electric razor.
- In short, nursing assistants help people who can’t completely help themselves. A nursing assistant can be the functioning arms of a quadriplegic, the eyesight of a person who is blind, the voice of someone who cannot talk.
- Nursing assistants don’t just work with their patients and residents, they pretty much live with them, 40 hours a week, sometimes for decades, until the patient or resident is discharged or dies. Want to know if a resident prefers angel food or chocolate cake? What television shows they watch on Tuesday nights? How many socks they have in their bottom dresser drawer? Ask the nursing assistant.
- Nursing assistants have a tough, dirty job. They are often verbally abused by the residents they take care of. This happens especially in nursing homes, where residents are often angry and no longer willing or able to be polite.
- Nursing assistants have to deal with the most intimate and disgusting bodily functions of their residents they change diapers, clean up vomit, etc. Residents do sudden and shocking things. Nursing assistants get bit, literally. That kind of stuff pushes your buttons, but a good nursing assistant deals with all of the above without losing their temper and does what is best for their residents at all times.
- Nursing assistant work is generally viewed as not being highly-skilled. In a sense, this is true. It doesn’t take as long to learn how to operate a Hoyer lift as it does to learn a new computer programming language, for example. But being a good nursing assistant is more than just a set of skills, it’s a gift.
- A good nursing assistant has a capacity for caring that can’t be taught; some people have it, and some people don’t. For instance, a nursing assistant might have a non-ambulatory resident with developmental disabilities who is showered lying down on a gurney and always gets upset when the water hits him. So, the nursing assistant tries different things and finally discovers that singing to the resident calms him down. She even figures out what songs he likes best. Then, she sings to him every shift for years. She doesn’t just sing because it’s easier and safer to shower the resident when he’s calm. She doesn’t do it because she’s being watched for her performance evaluation. She does it because she’s like that, because she cares.
- A good nursing assistant is a hero.
Thank you, Mark, for your insightful essay (which can be read in its entirety here).