During my life, I have had many jobs but none more fulfilling than being a Certified Nursing Assistant, or a CNA. I can truly say that I grew up when I worked as a CNA at the age of 20 years old. I learned so many lessons during my time as a Certified Nursing Assistant and many of those lessons made me the person I am today.
When I first applied for the training and job as a CNA in Pennsylvania, I had no idea what it was going to entail. All I knew was I was going to be dressing and cleaning elderly people who were residents at the full care facility I was going to be working at. I really had no idea what I was in for. My mother thought I was crazy and getting in over my head, but I had a strange feeling I could do this job. I graduated from DCCC at the top of my class and started my job as a CNA a week later. The first day, I cried. The second day, I saw a dead body. The third day I got written up for not following protocol. By the fourth day, I was starting to think I was in over my head and was ready to quit until I really got to know the people who were being cared for and those coworkers who chose to take care of the elderly residents on a daily basis for their full-time job.
One of the first lessons that I learned as a CNA is that life ends and you have no control over when it is your time to go. One of my first duties as a CNA was to help another CNA clean and dress and sweet old man who just passed away and get him ready for his funeral. It was hard to watch. I was scared shitless and I even cried. It was hard to experience but with that moment, I realized that even though life moves fast, we all have an end and that we want to meet that end with dignity and respect, no matter what age. That encounter with death prepared me for the job I was going to have to do and more and more each day, I knew that this is what I was supposed to do.
Another lesson that being a CNA has taught me is to be kind and compassionate. Everyone in the nursing home had a story and had a life before they arrived at the full care unit and no matter what they did or what they said, for some, this would be their final home. In addition to everyone having a story, they all had different conditions that brought them to the unit, spanning from broken hips to cancer to old age. But with every different soul that was in that building, one thing remained the same. You had to treat them all with love and show compassion for them, no matter what they say or do. Being a CNA brought me so much joy. With every finger nail I painted, every Jeopardy show we watched and every song that was sung, I saw the smiles of the residents and the joy in their faces. Compassion is joy.
The most important lesson that I learned being a CNA is to be patient. Patience is the key to being a successful CNA. There are many things during the day of a CNA that you can control, from the meal times to the shower schedules, but most of the time, being a Certified Nursing Assistant is all about the unexpected and being patient with every curve ball that is thrown your way. Ambulances can show up unexpectedly, residents can lose consciousness or even pass away without any sign, and sometimes residents can go completely mental and kick, bite, scratch and punch you until you are crying your eyes out on your break. But all the while, being patient and calm is the only thing that will get you through your 8 hour shift. Patience is a virtue and now I truly understand the phrase.
I would still be a Certified Nursing Assistant if I did not injure myself on the job and had to go on permanent medical leave. It was really hard for me to leave and I even considered getting another job within the field that was not so physically demanding, but it never worked out. I will always hold dear the lessons I learned, the friends I gained, the adopted grandmother I was so fond of (Miss You Ms. B), and the memories that I will never forget.
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