Tag Archives: conflict among caregivers

My Plea

Alice

Alice

        I am tired. I am tired and heartsick, frustrated, disillusioned and losing patience. I know that many of us work in a subpar facilities within a broken system. I understand that we make less money than pretty much any other field. I GET that, in our facility at least, there have been no raises and having worked there for the better part of seven years, I can almost guarantee that there will be none forthcoming. This is the reality of it and nothing I say or do can change it in the short-term. I feel your frustration because it is my own.

       Having acknowledged that, it needs to be said that there is a level of accountability that we, as caregivers, need to meet despite the above mentioned conditions. In this, we are failing and in our collective inability to elevate ourselves above these pitfalls, we inevitably shortchange both our residents and each other.
        Lately, the level of cattiness, finger pointing, laziness bred from apathy, and passive aggressive tendencies have played havoc with my morale and because of that, I find myself becoming impatient with some of my co-workers. I don’t want to spilt my focus between resident care and conflict on the floor; conflict over nothing. I simply do not have the energy to deal with both.
       I know that I can be overzealous, overprotective of my residents, and perhaps I have higher expectations of my co-workers than I should, but don’t we owe them our best? Don’t we owe that to each other? Don’t we owe that to ourselves?
          If I didn’t believe we could do better, I wouldn’t find it so maddening. I expect very little out of the administration because they neither know nor really care about the world on the floor. Oh, they care if it smells, or if it looks neat enough for prospective clients, but other than that, they care only that it’s quiet. They want the residents quiet and the workers quiet. But the residents psychological, physical and emotional well-being? It’s not on the forefront of their minds. Neither is ours, for that matter. 
        That will never change if we continue to feed into their stereotypical view of us. Often enough, we give them the very excuses they use to not offer us decent pay or recognition for the work that we do. Call outs, tardiness, poor work ethic, constant conflict all contribute to their preconceived notion that we are disposable. And where is there room for our residents in the midst of all that chaos?
       The bottom line of it is that our residents, our sick, elderly, vulnerable residents deserve better care than 8-9 dollars an hour can provide. We cannot allow our pathetic excuse for wages to dictate how we work. We have a choice here. We can let the negative toxic work environment dictate our attitude and personal ethics, or we can face each day with a clear, stubborn and consistent determination to do our very best regardless of what goes on around us. We can be strong enough to not be defined by the broken system in which we work and by doing so, we will slowly but surely affect change. Robert Kennedy once said that “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” …I wholeheartedly believe that. The first step towards being a part of the solution is to not be a part of the problem.

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.”

Another Angle on Anger

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Yang

Two recent posts on CNA Edge dealt with negative emotions: “Anger Management” by Edison Terrell and “Out of the Night” by May. While they take different approaches, these two posts share at least one very important idea: don’t allow your anger and frustration to become a problem for the people in your care.

In his post, Edison confronts his inner rage demon. The piece serves as more than a simple catharsis in the “confession is good for the soul” kind of way. As caregivers, we all have to deal with anger at one time or another – and if we’re honest, every single day. By his public confession, Edison demonstrates that it’s possible to have these feelings and still be compassionate and caring if we properly manage and process them. His post helps free us from the trap of denial and projection.

May’s post was equally introspective. But instead of a battle with her inner demons, she refuses to surrender to the negative influences of her work environment, in particular the perpetual listing of grievances by some of her coworkers. Instead, May makes a deliberate choice: “I stay despite the circumstances.” Through this simple act of will, she takes control and responsibility thus liberating her – and her residents – from the wearisome self-victimization displayed by her workmates.

Negative emotions are common in the work environment. Any time you put people together in a stressful situation there is going to be a good deal of politics and personality clashes. With egos on the line and blame to shift, some level of discord is to be expected. The same is true in any line of work. Due to the nature of our work, the stakes are higher and the emotion is amplified.

As we work to process our emotions, I think it’s useful to make a distinction between the routine frustrations of the workplace and the genuine anger engendered by problems that are endemic in long-term care. It’s difficult because the two things overlap so much. However, when we are able to separate them we elevate our awareness of something that is nothing less than a social injustice. We are not just workers; we are first hand witnesses to how the elderly and sick are directly affected by inadequate staffing levels, high turnover rates for caregivers and the poor utilization of resources due to misplaced priorities.

And here the rule applies doubly: the righteous anger we feel over this social justice should not become the residents’ problem. They are the primary victims. Don’t make them pay twice.

This brand of anger should instead be directed elsewhere.