It seems like every other word out of my mouth tonight was an apology. “I’m sorry I forgot your towels.” “I’m sorry I forgot your coffee.” “I’m sorry it took me so long.” “I’m sorry, but it looks like I won’t be able to do your shower tonight.” After two years of this, I finally felt like I was starting to get the hang of things. But this particular hall was so busy that some things just slipped through the cracks.
Every time I feel like I’ve finally got things figured out, it seems like the universe drops a load of crazy in my lap. Or in this case, a week of crazy. They just filled this rehab unit up after having it closed for a few weeks due to low census, and it seems like they managed to find every demanding, picky, or needy person in town and drop them on us all at once. Everyone who works this unit knows that it’s crazy. We’re struggling to get the bare minimum done, and it’s starting to show. We’ve been asking for more help for days, but it’s not going to happen.
It’s been a while since I’ve had an assignment this busy, and it was a rough day. I forgot Mr. A’s towels and Mrs. B’s coffee. Mr. C’s wife and daughter were sitting in the hall just before dinner, watching me run my legs off and making sympathetic comments about how I needed more help. Mrs. D waited over two hours for me to be able to put her to bed, and I never did get the chance to give Mrs. E her shower. As I’m driving home, I find myself running through the day in my head, trying to pinpoint what I could have done better.
I want to tell them that I’m busy. That there are too many people. That I need more help. But I try to avoid excuses, because they don’t really change anything. For better or for worse, this is what I’m stuck with, so I’ll figure it out.
In the end, Mr. A and Mrs. B got their towels and coffee. Mr. C’s family went home and I was finally able to take care of him without someone breathing down my neck. Mrs. D got into bed, and I told Mrs. E that maybe she can request a shower tomorrow or the day after if the staff has time. The orientee from the other hall came over to help me for the last hour, and I finally got everyone into bed. The charting wasn’t finished, and I clocked out late, but that’s okay. It happens. I’ll get to try again next time.
The truth of the medical field is that it’s hard. Some days it feels like I’ve been put through the wringer and dropped on a sinking ship with a teaspoon to bail myself out. I can either sink or learn to swim very quickly. But in the end, it’s worth it. Because when I walk into a room, they smile. They ask how my weekend off was, or how my classes are going. I celebrate with them when they graduate from the wheelchair to the walker. I give them a hug goodnight and tell them I’ll see them tomorrow.
They need me. It’s terrifying to realize that these people are totally dependent on me to care for them. It’s a million times more terrifying for them. There will be good days and bad days, but I’ll figure it out, because I have to. It will still feel like things are falling down around me, but I’ll learn to be calmer and deal with it.
When I first started as an aide, it was hard for me to accept the fact that I can’t do everything. That some days I was only able to get the minimum done. I thought that I was failing, and or that there was something I was doing wrong. But eventually I realized that everyone else was in the same boat, and that we were all just doing our best within a tough system. I learned to cope by focusing on the good parts of my day, not the bad.
And there were good parts today. I was able to share a joke with Mrs. F as I readjusted her pillows and gave her something to drink. Mr. C told me that I must like my job because I’m always smiling. I was able to teach the new girl a few tricks she didn’t know. Several people asked me when I would be back. If they want me back, I must be doing all right. I’m driving home listening to a good CD, and I have the weekend off before my classes start.
So I’ll go home, go to bed, and come back next week to start all over. It will be crazy, and I’ll probably mess up a few times. But I’ll survive in the end, and I’ll find a way to make someone smile. Just as I told Mr. C, I really do like my job. And it will be okay.