Thursday, October 13, 2005

Another day - another lesson

Sometimes I really wonder why I do what I do – career, job-wise.
When I’m doing a mock survey – or even at other times when I’m in facilities – I have to stand and walk for long periods. Some nights it feels as if my spine is going to accordion onto itself. Other nights, like two weeks ago, back and leg pain can be almost debilitating. And then there’s the fact that many weeks I’m staying in hotel rooms far from home.

It’s not easy being the “maven” of all long term care regulations. It’s not easy reading months worth of documentation from four or five different disciplines and try to make some sense of it all. It’s not easy telling people, who are working very hard at a difficult job, that they’re doing some things wrong. It’s not easy being the one those people think has all the answers on how to fix things.

And it’s certainly not easy being a nurse and wanting to do everything for everyone and at the same time being a fiscally-responsible corporate person. I know what staff in nursing homes are worth – we just can’t pay them that much (it all hinges on what the government – Medical Assistance and Medicare – pays us).

So, sometimes it ain’t easy being Mitzi.

Except when I meet ladies like Linda and Anna.

In my environmental tours of the buildings, I walk into many rooms (after knocking and asking permission, even if the resident is unresponsive) and I chat with many residents (not “patients” because we’re working in their “home”). My first lovely lady was named Linda who quickly told me that her roommate would not talk to me. I could see that immediately but, thinking, “Ah-ha. Maybe this resident is lonely. Super QA Nurse to the rescue!” I walked over to Linda and touch her hand (Note to self: subject for another blog entry- how we distance ourselves from the human touch and what it could mean in the future). Very sympathetic-empathically, I asked, “Would you like a roommate you could talk to.” Linda, apparently still suffering from a long-ago stroke, gave me a crooked smile and said emphatically, “No.” I gotcha, lady. Quiet and almost a private room. I left chuckling to myself – after I checked the floor, ceiling, walls and bathroom, of course.

And then there was Anna. I didn’t know her name, but I kept seeing this woman sitting in the hallway – in a wheelchair, of course. (“Little old lady with white hair and glasses sitting in a wheelchair” is not a good description). I couldn’t see the lady’s face because she had it hidden – inside the neck of her bright pink sweatshirt. I stopped by her several times during the day, patted her hand and asked her questions – with no sensible replies.
One my last walk-about, I stopped by her wheelchair, gently pulled her hands down (she was holding the neck of the shirt around her face) and said, “What’s your name?” She looked up at me and smiled, “Anna,” she said. “That’s my sister’s name,” I answered. For a moment, a very brief moment, I could see a spark of reality in her eyes. But it was quickly gone and the sweatshirt pulled up over her face again. On impulse I leaned over and kissed the top of her head. (Note to self: Really MUST write that entry about human touch).

I sometimes wonder “who” I will be if I’m lucky to live long enough to get to a nursing home – excuse me: skilled nursing facility. Linda or Anna.

I went back to my little room in the busy hallway. Went back to read mountains of documentation and physician orders. Went back, but thought about Linda and Anna.
As I tried to finish up the day’s work, I heard a plaintive voice come from outside the lounge where I worked. “I cry everyday. I cry everyday. I cry everyday.”

It was almost five so I packed up my briefcase, promising that I would not be the one who says, “I cry everyday . . . .”

So I do this job – why?
Good salary.
Good people.
Good lessons.


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