Tag Archives: certified nurses assistant

Rise Above

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Alice

       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.”

Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing

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Alice

         Some shifts, caregiving is like juggling while doing acrobatics on a tightrope through a flaming hoop suspended over a pool of hungry sharks. It requires mental and physical dexterity, finely honed observation skills, the ability to multi-task, set boundaries, and meet needs all while maintaining balance and sanity in completely insane scenarios.

       It’s a tap-dance. The office people have expectations and yet do not provide us the means with which to meet them. Our residents can be very difficult to please. Frustrated with their own situation, the can lash out with anger at the faces they are most used to seeing…ours. Sometimes our OWN frustrations and lack of communication can have us at each other’s throat. On a tough day, it is inevitable that something will be missed.

        I’ve learned to be ok with that…alright, that’s not EXACTLY true, but I’ve learned to accept it. We are human, after all, and no one ever died because I forgot to change a bedspread with a drop of coffee on the bottom or I ran out of time and had to postpone a shave until the next day. I’ve learned to accept that nothing is ever going to be done perfectly in the conditions in which I work. I tend to worry about those small lapses more than my residents do.

       What I try NEVER to forget, however the shift may be going, is that kindness is a skeleton key. Doors that have been slammed closed because of fear and broken trust will open slowly if kindness is applied with consistency. It sounds so trite in its simplicity but it really isn’t.

       To my way of thinking, there is a difference between NICENESS and KINDNESS. Niceness involves plastering a smile on your face; it’s a people-pleasing skill that enables us to be “yes” people. It involves more sweetness and duplicity than it does any depth of thought. Kindness is a different story. Sometimes, the kindest answer is no. Sometimes, setting boundaries that will upset a resident or a co-worker in the short-term but will benefit us all in the long-term is an act of kindness.  Sometimes, it’s simply noticing that someone is “off” and taking the time to let them know you care. Being present, actively listening and responding with honesty, stepping up when needed with no thought of reward, taking a minute to address an issue during a time when you are calm rather than exploding when you are angry are all varieties of kindness. It’s a thoughtful ability that requires practice and introspection and, when applied correctly, it can teach us the art of knowing when to calm the waters and when to rock the boat.

     For me, this is the most important skill. I have seen it pull both residents and co-workers through when morale was low and patience was as short as the staffing.  A genuine smile and a well-timed joke can lighten the darkest of moods. You never know what another person is going through. You never know who you can reach. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, but I have found that it pays dividends.

Protected Concerted Activity

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Yang

I’ve come across a number of posts on the CNA Facebook pages that express frustration over LTC managers not responding to caregiver concerns regarding their working conditions. If you’ve already raised an issue as an individual through the normal lines of communication within your facility and feel like you’re not being heard, there is something else you can do. It’s an option that most caregivers – and perhaps many LTC managers – are not aware of.

It’s called “Protected Concerted Activity.” This is involves a Federal labor law that protects your right to act together with other employees to improve your pay and working conditions – with or without a union.  This means you can collaborate with your coworkers and voice your concerns as a group and your employer cannot punish you for acting as a group.

According to the National Labor Relations Board website: If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, the National Labor Relations Board will fight to restore what was unlawfully taken away. These rights were written into the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act and have been upheld in numerous decisions by appellate courts and by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The law does not cover all concerted activity. Again, from the NLRB website:

“Whether or not concerted activity is protected depends on the facts of the case. If you have questions, please contact an Information Officer at your nearest NLRB Regional Office, which you can find on this page or by calling 1-866-667-NLRB. The Information Officer will focus on three questions:

Is the activity concerted?

Generally, this requires two or more employees acting together to improve wages or working conditions, but the action of a single employee may be considered concerted if he or she involves co-workers before acting, or acts on behalf of others.

Does it seek to benefit other employees?

Will the improvements sought – whether in pay, hours, safety, workload, or other terms of employment – benefit more than just the employee taking action?  Or is the action more along the lines of a personal gripe, which is not protected?

Is it carried out in a way that causes it to lose protection?

Reckless or malicious behavior, such as sabotaging equipment, threatening violence, spreading lies about a product, or revealing trade secrets, may cause concerted activity to lose its protection.”

I am not qualified to give any kind of legal advice and this post is for informational purposes only. I would urge anyone considering concerted activity to do their homework first. Check out the NRLB website www.nlrb.gov  (click on the “Rights We Protect” tab) and also speak to a NRLB Information Officer (1-866-667-NLRB).

Since our work involves residents we have to be careful not to violate their rights while we assert ours. However, there are many instances when the two overlap. In particular, I’m thinking concerted activity may be useful for issues regarding things like access to proper equipment and the availability of adequate supplies.

If you’ve already raised an issue and you feel your concerns are not being properly addressed, you may want to consider exploring your right to protected concerted activity.  Sometimes it takes a group.