The mistakes we make


“They had a responsibility to care for your loved one.”

There’s only one coherent thought in my head, and that’s “Damn commercial”.
I’d turn it off, but then I’d have to a) get up off this floor and b) come out of this bathroom. And I just don’t have the energy, or the willpower to do these things. It’s crowded enough without opening the door and letting the world in; just me and my mistake. Perhaps I’m overreacting; people say I’m good at that.
“Everyone makes mistakes.”
“You’re only human.”
“Even the best fall down sometimes.”

All true, of course. All absolutely true. Perfection is impossible.
But I’m a CNA. My mistakes are marked on my residents’ quality of life. A skin tear if I’m not careful; a fall if I’m not paying attention; an error in front of a surveyor if I’m not collected. So many things to go wrong, so many mistakes to make. It’s all well and good to say “learn from your mistakes”, but the truth is, long term care isn’t known for its mercy. We really can’t be: our profession is the knife edge between care and neglect, advocacy and abuse. Mistakes can’t be tolerated. It’s the residents that matter.
“Your loved ones deserve better,” the narrator booms on. “Make them pay!”
Is that what I’m afraid of? That someday I’ll make a mistake in front of the wrong person and get sued? That someone will file a complaint? That I’ll get accused of abuse? That I’ll lose my certification?
I drop my head to my hands. Right now, I’m afraid of two things: that I’ll start crying and that someone’s going to need this bathroom before I’m ready to leave. This isn’t exactly a great place for a breakdown…but I guess you really can’t choose the moment you’re going to snap. Because if I could, I wouldn’t have chosen the moment right before an ambulance-chasing lawyer commercial came on. My problem with it isn’t that it exists…just that it played at the exact moment I pulled an inadequately tucked hoyeir pad out from underneath a resident. One of the straps got caught on her arm and opened a large skin tear.
And now that same commercial is playing again. I feel like it’s following me, taunting me. See how the mighty have fallen; this “good aide” who prides herself on her “conscientiousness” got in a rush and hurt a resident. Oh, great. Here I go again…

No. I get up and splash cold water on my face. There’s a CNA looking back at me from the mirror….I can tell because she’s exhausted but determined to carry on. It’s that or quit, after all; maybe it’s pride, but I am more than the mistakes I make.
So I caused a skin tear. A big, nasty one. Yes, I did the right thing and told the nurse straight away without trying to conceal anything. Yes, her family is very upset. Yes, I overheard two coworkers talking about me and my “big mess up”. Yes, I messed up. Yes, I was in a hurry because we’re short and I’m tired because I’ve been working over a lot. And yes, there’s that damned commercial playing again.
Big whoop. There’s still a lot to do and my residents still need me to help them…Lord knows they aren’t going to change and transfer themselves without more injuries. The truth is, my residents’ quality of care is greatly dependent on my frame of mind; my wellbeing connected to theirs.
Time to calm down and get back to work.

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