I started training other aides by default–by that I mean, I was trainer by default of being the aide with the most experience that day. Six months after I started my first aide job.
To say I was a little startled would be an understatement. I was not at all certain that I knew enough to be training other aides, and I probably was right. However, I fudged my way through, with missteps and mistakes but apparently doing enough right to asked to do it again. I guess my constant mental refrain of “Be like A, not V!” was indeed helpful. I’ve been training ever since. It has been a good experience for me, and I sometimes think of it as the first step towards writing on CNA Edge, because the thing about training is you have talk somebody else through the job.
I learned slowly, one trainee at a time, what works and what doesn’t. Here’s my Top Ten Things To Remember While Training:
- Slow down.
This one is hard for me, even to this day. I talk fast; I’ve got a long stride and move like Speedy Gonzales…or so I’ve been told. One day I was explaining the fire policy to my trainee and all of a sudden I became aware of this wheezing behind me. Naturally I thought a resident was having difficulty breathing–but when I spun around, there was no one around except my trainee. Her hands were on her knees and her face was bright red. “Do you think you could slow down just a bit?” she gasped. “I can’t make out anything you’re trying to show me beyond the human-shaped blur.”
- Show and tell.
“How about you take this one?” my trainee laughs, nodding at the next resident in our rounds. “I’ve done almost all the changing today!”
“Correction,” I say, “you’ve done almost all the work today. I believe in hands-on learning: think of me as your training wheels, there if you need me, but meant to be phased out. If all you did was watch me do the work, all you’d learn is how I do it. I want you to learn how you do it.”
Normally, I show once or twice, then I talk my trainee through it step-by-step. As the training progresses, my verbal instructions become verbal cues and then, on the last day, simply confirmation or critique.
- Encourage initiative.
To survive in long term care, you’ve got to think on your feet. The earlier you learn creative problem solving, the easier it will be to take the pressure without breaking. I try to give my trainees first go at a problem, encourage them to think how bend so you don’t break.
- Take the time to explain “why”.
I noticed pretty early on that people would respond better if I could tell them why they needed to do something a certain way, instead of just telling them that I knew best and they needed to do as I said.
- Don’t swoop in and finish a job you set them unless it’s an emergency.
This one was hard for me: I like things done right. Also, there’s always a clock ticking instead my head, reminding me of much time is slipping away, how many more residents I have to do. However, I had to learn not to swoop in and snatch the job away from my trainees…especially if they were struggling. All that did was reinforce the feeling of “I can’t do this”.
- Don’t sugar-coat the reality.
I was terrified the first few times I trained–not of training, but terrified they would think it too hard and leave. We were extremely short-staffed at the time and I was terrified of losing these new aides before they even finished training. I tried to make everything run smoothly, busted my behind to create a good day around them. The first time they worked without me, they were shocked and horrified to learn that things didn’t run so well outside my little umbrella of forced calm. I learned the hard way not to sugar-coat things; let the newbies see the reality of what they were getting into before we were dependent on them to pull their own weight.
- Set realistic expectations and be patient.
“Faster, faster, faster,” was V’s constant refrain while I was with her. “Come on girl, you’ll never make it if you don’t speed up. 15 minutes per shower, come on, let’s go.” Sadly, V was not the only aide from whom I have heard this. Many newbies, like myself once upon a time, find this extremely frustrating: to be brand new at a job and expected to keep up with the most experienced aide in the building. It feels like you’ve been set up to fail and nobody likes that. “Slow down, learn it the right way,” I say. “Speed will come with experience. It’s a lot of information being thrown at you all at once, but don’t worry. Give it a few weeks and you’ll get it. I don’t expect you to be Superaide right out of the gate.”
- Set a good example.
I hope that I’m a fairly pleasant and polite person to begin with, but I’ve learned to keep a cheerful demeanor while training no matter what my personal emotions are that day. Like it or not, I am the face of my nursing home while I’m training…the face of long term care even, when I’m training brand new aides. Constantly griping or focusing on the negatives is setting a bad example of what is acceptable from a caregiver. Constantly freaking out about all the work we’ve got left…doesn’t quite inspire confidence, either in you or their own ability to do the job. Grace under pressure is the goal, I tell myself. Grace under pressure and show these new initiates how to handle a bad day.
- Follow the rules.
This one hurt a bit to learn. Look, any aide who has survived for any length of time in this business has probably bend (if not broken) a few rules. Unfortunately, that’s the way the system is set up: doing it the “right” way is always difficult, if not impossible. At first, I cut corners in front of my newbies. That stopped the first time one ratted me out to my supervisor–over a minor infractions, but whatever. Lesson learned. Follow the rules, be friendly but don’t assume this is your new best buddy at work.
- Draw your line in the sand and stick to your guns.
There’s a few important things you cannot budge on. For me as a caregiver, these are body mechanics and how you treat my residents. My trainees learn quickly that I’m strict when it comes to good body mechanics and treating my residents with respect and empathy.
I warn them about the statistics on CNA back injuries; I tell them not to be a number on that graph. I remind them constantly to talk to resident during care, to remember that it’s not the dirty brief that is important: it’s the person who wears the brief.
Protect your back.
Remember: residents are people too.
Simple to say, not so simple to practice. As a trainer, I try not to let newbies start any bad habits. There’s no “just this once” for bad body mechanics and being mean to residents.