One of my all-time favorite comedians, the late great George Carlin once noted that most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit. As much as the eternal optimist in me wants to rail against the cynicism and believe that hard work and dedication will be properly rewarded when applied consistently, the realist in me recognizes truth when I see it.
I have worked in the same facility through three owners and five administrators. Other than the faces, not much changes. I gave up on the idea of good leadership with strong problem solving abilities long ago. The office is the world of what things appear to be. The floor is the world of what actually is. Because of that, I don’t hold a lot of faith in their ability to employ the solid and positive changes that are necessary to keep the floor running smoothly, enhance the quality of life for my residents and promote a healthy work environment for my co-workers. They do not attend the in-services, they are not engaged with the residents and they don’t listen to those of us who are. As frustrating as that can be, I’ve learned to accept and work around it.
It’s a tougher pill for me to swallow when I see my family on the floor allow the poor pay and lack of structure to erode their work ethic. It’s a little heartbreaking to see caregivers come in so full of potential, talent and skill and watch as the low pay, drama and daily frustrations dissolve their drive until it is the negative atmosphere that is dictating how they perform their job.
I GET it. I do. An excellent caregiver and a terrible caregiver are treated exactly the same, the only incentive, at least on paper, is to not get fired. Why break yourself in half when it goes unappreciated? Why run yourself ragged trying to make sure the hall is in tip-top shape before you leave when no one bothers to do it for you?
The answer is simple. Because our job is important. Not in the “looks great on a resume” sort of way but in the “we are making a direct difference in the lives of others” kind of way. We take care of the broken people. The lost and scared and forgotten. That is our job. That is our calling. People who are sick and angry and scared are not always the easiest to handle, but easy is not in our job description.
I wish I could find the words to properly express to my co-workers how amazing I think they are and that I KNOW they have the strength not to be defined by the bullshit. They are smarter than that. I wish I could convince them that if we come together as a team; united and dedicated to our residents and to each other, we could do better. We WOULD do better. If we spent less time pointing fingers and more time finding solutions, we could be a force of good to be reckoned with; that I BELIEVE in them and their potential…but I am one person. I try very hard to speak through my actions. Maybe 1 in 10 caregivers there hear me. But those that do, those that don’t tune this message out give me hope enough to continue on in this field. In this facility in particular. Those that rise above and soldier on give me the strength to do so as well. They remind me of another one of old Georgie’s quotes,
“I like it when a flower or little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so f&$king heroic.”