It’s my supervisor.
She immediately launches into a speech.
“May, what is going on? I’ve got an aide saying that you let a woman soil herself because you didn’t feel like transferring her, I’ve got a pissed off family member who is literally screaming at me because my workers are too damn lazy to do anything. And you’ve got six call lights going off, not counting yours.”
She pauses and looks at me, giving me a chance to explain my side of the story. There’s just one problem.
My patience, I realize, is completely gone. It up and left and I have this horrible feeling that if I try to defend myself, I’ll end up crying…because I’m mad. It’s a bit confusing for others, but I usually cry when I’m just so mad I can’t see straight.
I step back and nod to the resident sitting on the commode. She’s still crying.
“You try. If you think I’m lazy or whatever–”
My supervisor gives me an odd look, but to her credit, she does what I, er, ask. For a split second, I’m afraid that the resident will just hop up…that would certainly be a perfect way for this to end. And, in a way, this is what happens; she stands up. But the supervisor is straining and clearly doing more than just assisting. I jump in and help–between the two of us, we manage to pull up Mrs. A’s pants and get her in the chair. It’s…not easy.
“My God, how did that girl get her on by herself?” the supervisor gasps. “She’s got to be really strong.” There’s a note of almost admiration in her voice.
I shrug. “I’m strong,” I say quietly.
It’s true, not a boast. I might be petite, but I am strong. I can do bed check of the most difficult residents by myself, I can get residents on the hoyer in their chairs pretty darn good. I could have picked up Mrs. A by myself.
The supervisor nods. “I know,” she says apologetically.
It’s not a question of physical ability. It’s a question of survival and longevity in my career. I’m still a young person with the majority of my life ahead of me. If I blow out my back because I was too impatient to wait for help, that’s it. I’m done. Not only would that possibly be the end of my career as a CNA, it could very well be the end of my independence and mobility. I don’t want to end up in constant pain just because I’m a CNA. I refuse to believe that’s just the way it is.
CNA is a rough job. Sorry about your luck and here’s your pain pills.
The problem is that I do understand where my partner was coming from. Letting a woman urinate on herself rather than put myself through a bit of discomfort seems like a selfish choice. I did, after all, just rank my wellbeing above hers. Not only that, getting help ate up precious time, time I could’ve used to help another resident. Seems like a selfish choice.
Or was it? If I’d have bear hugged her, she could have slipped out of my arms. She could have fallen. Probably wouldn’t have, and didn’t when my partner transferred her. However, I weighed the options and decided that the possibly of hurting myself or Mrs. A outweighed the probability that she’d soak herself. Hard choices, as they say.
Unfortunately, staffing situations make these kinds of scenarios an almost hourly occurrence.
It’s a judgement call, deciding how much we can handle. Can I roll this person on my own? Should I roll this person on my own? Is there anyone even available to help me? There are those who abuse this judgement call, demanding help with the easiest of residents (one girl once asked me to help her change a walkie-talkie resident!). Some people never want to make this decision and do more than they can handle. It’s never easy when the “right” choice is to let someone soil themselves rather than put yourself at risk.
My supervisor washes her hands slowly and leaves the bathroom. I hear her talking with the son and when I come out with Mrs. A, he doesn’t say a word to me. Doesn’t even look at me, in fact.
My hall-partner shoots me a dirty look the next time we pass each other. I later hear that she got in trouble for leaving a resident on alarms in the bathroom by themselves, but not for the one-assist transfer. Apparently, Mrs. A’s inconsistent transfer abilities make it hard to say for certain that the aide did an “illegal lift”, as I’ve heard them called. Mrs. A is made a standing lift PRN, and at our next meeting, we are reminded that this is a no-lift facility. Use your best judgement and don’t hurt yourself. Now get back to work.