CNA Edge is an opinion blog regarding the work of direct caregivers in long-term care. In this first post, I would like to share my reasons for starting this blog.
Last summer, I stumbled across a number of CNA Facebook pages. There were two large ones and a number of smaller ones. The links to these pages are in the right hand column under “CNA Facebook Community.” All of these pages posted similar kinds of inspirational/funny/touching photos, quotations, poems and all manner of memes. These are what I like to call Internet bumper stickers: quick, easy to digest and easy to relate to. It’s what people like. It’s what Facebook is all about.
I had my favorites and did my share of liking and sharing. While anyone could look at these postings and get the humor and sentiment, it was clear that you had to be a caregiver to appreciate them at a deeper level.
What really caught my attention wasn’t the message in the memes, but the sheer volume of people who responded to them. A post would go up and within minutes it would have a hundred likes and fifty shares. The reason for this is simple: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if you are a direct care worker, you share a common experience with a lot of other people.
Late last fall, the administrators of these CNA Facebook pages started doing something that took this common experience and created the beginning of something much greater. They began reposting messages from caregivers themselves. Most of the time, this was done anonymously. It included all kinds of things: practical questions regarding employment opportunities or tips on care, routine problems and emotional interventions, successes and frustrations, how to deal with difficult situations or difficult people. In the process, the page administrators managed the neat trick of allowing commenters wide leeway in responding without letting the whole thing degenerate into a useless Internet flame war. Given the emotional nature of our work, this has been no small achievement.
By tapping directly into the collective wisdom and experience of ordinary direct care workers, the Facebook pages became a legitimate platform for the voice of CNAs. For workers employed in an industry that relies heavily on spin, here was something very genuine and enormously appealing. As a result, the numbers and activity on these Facebook pages exploded. Right in front of our eyes, a vibrant online CNA Community – a community that has been waiting to happen – was formed. There has never been anything like it.
Why CNA Edge?
CNA Edge intends to delve deeper into the issues that are raised on Facebook. Because of how Facebook is organized, the postings and comments come and go at dizzying pace. An issue is raised, there is a deluge of response and then, after day or two, everyone goes on to something else. The CNA Facebook pages are the noisy, fast paced central square of our burgeoning online community. CNA Edge is the little coffee shop just at the edge of the square. Our purpose is to provide a place for reflection, extended discussion and wider expression.
If this sounds a little dull, allow me make something clear from the beginning. While the Facebook page administrators have to encourage and maintain a sense professional propriety in order to be effective, CNA Edge is an opinion blog and we have no intention of being fettered by the constraints of professional correctness. We are going to express ourselves as caregivers and say the things we think need to be said without reservation or deference to a “higher authority.” Some of this is going to be a little edgy and a little angry.
We are proceeding on the basis that there are fundamental flaws in long-term care that cannot be adequately addressed until the CNA Voice is fully articulated and clearly heard. This is a Voice that comes from the deep wells of our inner experience as caregivers. It is a Voice that is based in action and thus routinely distorted and subdued in conventional health care discourse. Please understand, we do not regard this effort as a matter of offering our “input” as a cog in the existing long-term care hierarchy. It is not possible for us to look at our common inner experience with eyes wide open and not be for radical change in long-term care.
At the same time, the current contributors to this blog are keenly aware that we can only offer one aspect of the CNA Voice. We do not – we cannot – represent that Voice in its fullness. While there are fundamental aspects of the caregiving experience that we all share, the wide diversity of work situations offered by long-term care helps to create equally diverse perceptions and attitudes. We welcome all honest and well-reasoned opinion. Also, we hope that other hands-on caregivers from all health care environments, including hospitals, home care and therapeutic settings will join us as contributors and commenters.
Welcome to CNA Edge,
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In the next post, we will introduce Alice. Her first entry is a poignant representation of how one caregiver creates meaning and purpose from the inner experience of her work.
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