“Oh, never mind about her, she’s not important; she’s just the aide.”
It’s surprising at times, how context defines how much a certain set of words can hurt us. I’ve heard those words from so many people: a stranger, a nurse, a visiting doctor, a State inspector, myself…and yet it hurts the most coming from this person, in this context. Coming from another, these words would sting, but coming from my resident, it’s a slap in the face. I feel like I have been physically abused by this sentence…as though it’s constituent syllables were fists pounding in the message.
“She’s not important; she’s just the aide.”
The resident continues on her conversation with her visitors and I’m still standing here, moving quickly from shock to anger. I have half a mind to throw down the glass of water I’m carrying and just walk away. I can’t, I know. For one, it would be unprofessional; for another I literally can’t. There’s not enough space in this room to properly storm out, especially not with all these visitors milling about. That’s what started this particular episode–this resident’s room mate asked me to fetch her insulated cup (and other assorted items) from her room, as she hadn’t been able to get in her room with the people crowding the door. To reach it, I had to squeeze around too many people crammed in too small a space–of course the resident unable to enter the room would have the second bed, farther from the door. Some of the visitors had recognized my predicament and had suggested they move this visit from the room to somewhere with a little more space so they wouldn’t be in my way so much. That’s when my resident, who I have known and sweated buckets for a long time now, declared that I and my inconvenience were not important.
“She’s not important; she’s just an aide.”
How long until I stop hearing these words reverberate inside my skull? The visitors have the grace to look uncomfortable…but they don’t say anything. I am alone here. I stalk to the bathroom to fill up the cup and when the door swings shut behind me, I allow myself my anger. I’m human too, after all. Not a robot or even a one-dimensional “aide”, whatever Mrs. ___ in there imagines that to be. It just hurts to be valued so little by the resident I fight for everyday. I come in to work when I don’t really want, work a crap-ton of over-time–all so she can have the highest quality care. I struggle to hang on to the qualities of compassion and empathy on this battlefield of exhaustion and stressors–all for her and my other residents. Doesn’t she care? I know she sees. How can she not?
Mrs. S is still waiting for her ice water, I realize, and I’m hiding out in a bathroom with people I’m struggling not to see as the enemy right outside the door. I take a deep breath and push my way out of the room. I’ll have to come back in here later, I know. I’ll have to continue to provide her with the highest quality care despite the hurt she’s just inflicted. That’s my job and I do my job. Doesn’t mean I won’t report this incident to my supervisor. She might not be able to do anything about the treating the staff like crap, but she’ll certainly have a conversation with Mrs. ___ about her disregard for her room mate’s right to enter her own room. Mrs. S is still where I left her in the hall and almost ridiculously happy to see her insulated cup–a Christmas gift from her son, I remember. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” she cries, before taking a very long drink. “Don’t know what I’d do without you,” she says when she comes up for air.
“Don’t know what I’d do without you.”
I think I’ll hang on to these words instead. I like the way they make me feel needed and valued. Hey, I’m human too.