Last week, as I drove away from and headed back home, I was contemplating on how bad my day had been. Working at a nursing home, one can easily get burnt out. In order to avoid becoming that angry, “i-hate-my-life” kinda person, I have always attempted to look at the brighter side of things in hopes that somehow I can find a silver lining. As I tried to submerge myself into that pool of positivity, I could only see myself hating my job more and more.
I originally came into this job as a means to gain experience with the healthcare setting. Everything sort of worked out, I got my nursing assistant license, and boom – I get the job at the nursing home. As a novice in the field, I found myself clinging on to the idea that I would never become one a jaded, desensitized veteran who did not seem to understand the meaning of compassion. I would promise myself that I would be a loving and caring professional at all times, no matter the situation. For a while, that was actually the case. As time progressed and I had been working there for a while, this feeling has faded away, and it wasn’t until recent that I realized it. It slipped away slowly, very gradual. Maybe because I fell into a routine, or the fact that I found myself in a constant state of being tired, I failed to keep up with my promise. I like to believe I am the person who keeps my word. This time, though, I didn’t even realized I had failed. I allowed myself to become unmoved to people’s emotions and thoughts. I had become a professional I never aspired to be.
This realization was brought about as I was driving home that night. As Delilah gave some heart-felt advice to a listener, I reminisced on why I thought I had a bad day. Appropriately enough, a song called “Bad Day” came on the radio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH476CxJxfg ). This caused my mind to be over-flooded with all these “aha” moments. At my job, there are two kind of bad days. There are those days in which you might be placed with a co-worker that you might not work well with. This is a factor one can’t control, it’s just life. Sometimes you might not have such affinity for a co-worker, but it is your duty as a professional to overcome such differences and provide the excellent service you once vowed to. That was not the case for this day! The second kind of a bad day comes from having one or more “difficult” patient/resident. I think sometimes we get lazy, and we would prefer to help those who might not actually need that much help.
In a nursing home, there are some residents who require lots of attention, while others need mere supervision throughout their day. Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I consider a good day when I’m assigned to care for residents that can be very independent, and do lots for themselves. Other residents require total care and extensive assistance in everything. These are the ones who really need us for all aspects of their stay there. Again, I think we get lazy. Taking care of the latter kind of resident requires a lot from us. While getting paid to tend to them, we tend to selfishly prefer those who might not need that much help. I became the person who measured my days as good or bad on whether I was placed with easy patients or not.
When it finally hit me, this stark realization did not settle right with me. First, I am ashamed that it took me such a long time to figure it out. Secondly, I have always been very insistent and adamant that I would not allow my personal feelings infiltrate my professional environment. I became the caregiver I despised.
Cruising back home that night, I recollected the events that had just taken place. (This might be somewhat graphic – just a head’s up!) Exactly three minutes before clocking out, the person who took over my assignment for the night called me in for help at a resident’s room. This honestly was the last thing I wanted. Having had a long day, I was all ready to get on my way home to get some sleep. This specific resident was one that required total care. Throughout my shift, she was not feeling well at all. She had been having stomach pains and nausea all throughout the evening. When I lay her in bed, she was complaining about her stomach, that there was something wrong with it. I promptly alerted the nurse, who then gave her some medication for it. For the rest of the shift, this resident would frequently call me with her call light, letting me know that she didn’t feel well. Even though we provided the care for her ailments, she still felt sick. She had never acted this way before. The nurse did inform me that she was on a new antibiotic treatment, which could possibly be the reason for her upset stomach. (This is the part that is going to get graphic.) To add on to her worries, she had been incontinent of her bowels the entire night. Because of it, she was not able to go to sleep. As I provided care for her, I tried to keep her comfortable through it all.
Everyone who works in a nursing home has a horrible poop story. This case, I believe, trumped all of them. When I came in to help the girl who took my position, I stepped into my poop story. While we believe it was because of her new medication, this lady was literally sitting in a puddle of her own feces. This was after I had just helped her clean up about thirty minutes before. Since the who called me in for help was new, she did not know where to start being this her first encounter with a situation like this. This was around 11:45pm. The best solution for this case was a shower. With the nurse’s blessing, it was exactly what we did. We put her in a shower and got her all cleaned up. As if shower had a some sort of therapeutic effect on her, it was what calmed her down. For the entire night, she was anxious and disturbed. Something was definitely not right with her. The shower not only cleaned her up, it seemed to wash her worries away. Once we put her back in a freshly-made bed with a new night gown, she thanked me for my help. Then, she asked me to pray with her. I grew up in a Christian home and I am a big believer in the power of prayer, so the idea of coming to God in prayer is very familiar to me. What hit me was the fact that I had never directly incorporated prayer into my work. When I finished praying with her, she told me I would make a great doctor someday. After that, she dozed off into a peaceful night of sleep.
Her compliment struck me. While it was very nice to her that, I honestly feel like I did not deserve it. I was pissed off that I had to stay extra to help. I was annoyed that this new girl did not ask someone else to help her. And then, I get such a compliment. As I drove home that night, I realized I was not providing the care I wanted to provide in the first place. I go to a Christian college that focuses on a holistic approach to healthcare. Our professors try to instill in us the idea that we are here to treat not only the physical ailments, but the body as a whole. This encompasses the emotional, social, and spiritual aspect of a person as well. While this seems very pretty and dandy, it can be very hard to bring those concepts together and apply them to real life. I had never prayed with a resident before, even though that is what I have been taught throughout my college education. Sitting in my car that night, I believed I had made a difference in his lady’s life, if only for that night.
Now, as I look back on all the “bad” days I have had, I consider them to be the days I made the most difference. I now take the opportunity of such “bad” days to practice this all-encompassing approach and make an impact on someone’s life. If a good day is one that everything goes according to plan and there are no residents that need help, then I don’t want to have good days. I want to have more of these “bad” days, because then I know I am making a difference in a person’s life.