I’ve observed after sitting through a number of interviews, whether expressed or unexpressed, the candidate is interviewing the company as well. I get a sense they are asking themselves, “Would I like working here? Can I do the job? Would I enjoy doing the work?” Many times in particular for someone entering into the field of healthcare, they don’t know the first step, but they have been told that becoming a nursing assistant will help build the foundational skills necessary for success. For the person wondering, what a day in the life of a nursing assistant looks like, this article relates perspectives from two of our care givers and will help people vicariously enter into a day in the life of a caregiver.
The day in the life of an STNA (state tested nursing assistant) is truly challenging and remarkably rewarding. Nicole Hamilton, director for human resources at Blossom, and Whitney Smith, registered nurse at Holly, agree. Both worked for years as STNAs.
Nicole born and raised in the area, recalls being involved in the lives of residents at Blossom as a child. Her mother worked at Blossom while Nicole was growing up, and is director of housekeeping today. “I remember riding my bike in the parking lot,” she says. “I also visited Blossom residents with 4-H and youth groups, and remember singing for them.”
At age 14, she was allowed to go in early each day for a couple of hours and make beds, circulate the dining room and make toast for residents.
Nicole remembers always wanting to be a nurse. “I have a paper from kindergarten,” she says. “It said, ““What do you want to be when you grow up?” Answer: “I want to be a nurse.””
At age 16, the closest thing to being a nurse was to become a nursing assistant. She attended the two-week class offered at the time through the Holly campus, which includes rigorous clinical studies and floor work.
“I loved it,” she said. “They really taught us how to care for residents. It is somewhat natural, to care for someone your own age or younger, but to properly care for a senior, requires more knowledge and understanding.”
After taking the classes and receiving her STNA credentials, the rewarding work began. As a nurse’s assistant, the days begin early with face-to-face meetings with STNA’s from prior shifts. Updated information about each resident is shared. This ensures that the resident’s care is appropriate and effective and allows for a smooth transition from shift to shift.
Each aide is responsible for approximately eight residents and every resident requires a great deal of care before breakfast, such as weight measurements, personal hygiene assistance and possibly assistance with dressing and transferring. Because of this close interaction, the STNA builds unparalleled relationships with each resident and also becomes their voice to the other staff. He/she is responsible for knowing their likes, dislikes, abilities, lack of abilities and works diligently to ensure that their quality of life and day-to-day activities are as fulfilling as possible.
Nicole said her one of her favorite parts of working with the residents was being a bath-aide. “I know how it feels when I look good and feel good,” she said. “So I really enjoy being able to do this for them.” One resident loves to dress up daily, hair, makeup and matching jewelry, and we can’t forget her rouge,” said Nicole. “This makes our day fun as well!” It is often the small things that make big differences in the quality of life of the seniors.
Another rewarding part of this job, happens when residents come back to visit. “One of our past rehab patients returns regularly to visit with residents,” smiles Nicole. This is remarkable because many patients discharged from the hospital come to us at their worst. Faced with things like pneumonia or severe weakness, often, the person can’t do much for themselves. Yet, within a couple of weeks to see the life and vibrancy return to them never ceases to be amazing. All the more, each time someone walks through the door returning to the normalcy of life as they knew it, prior to their rehab stay, it is nothing short of remarkable. Moreover, that you have been an integral part of the process to help that person achieve this, is what makes the challenges of the job fail in comparison to the joy of helping others.
Whitney Smith was also raised with the influence of health care early in Life.
Her dad is administrator at Holly.
As a teenager, she wanted to earn money to buy a car, so she worked as an activities aide. In this role, she would interact and assist residents during scheduled outings and events. For example, she would accompany them on trips, play bingo, read with them or listen to music.
“I loved it,” she says. “Doing those kinds of activities with residents creates a special kind of relationship.”
Later during her junior/senior high school year, she decided to take the STNA class. “I was at the age where I had to start thinking about college. I was pretty sure, I wanted to be a nurse and thought becoming an STNA would help me decide. Besides, it appeared that the STNAs at Holly really loved what they were doing.”
She discusses the routine and the value of the Holly STNA staff.
“They work hard from start to finish, she says. “During the daily routines, we are especially attentive to preserving the residents’ abilities and dignity. It might take them a little longer to take care of their own personal hygiene, but it is important for them to do it.” One of the core values at the Ohman Family Communities is the Celebration of Life. Life is celebrated at its fullest when the resident/patient we care for, finds joy throughout their day. Again the smallest of things such as making it to the women’s tea to sit and chat with friends on a weekly basis is something people look forward to. Therefore, the ability to go and look/feel your best is brought forth by the assistance in the activities of daily life carried out by a nursing assistant.
Working as an STNA taught Whitney many life lessons and skills. Illness is no respecter of any one person and we don’t know when it will hit our own families. The skills and knowledge gained working in this setting are life-long skills that can be applied in caring for anyone. “It taught me compassion for our seniors as well as patience.” She talked about the brevity of life and the value of family. She has witnessed many families dealing with life and death issues.
“Spend time with your loved ones,” she says. “Their lives may have changed, but it is so important to stay involved.”
In a day and age of technology, although “connected” through the Internet, we are not fully connected with others that we interact with everyday. Acting as a caregiver you have no choice but to learn to connect with those you care for daily. From the simple act of reaching out to touch someones hand and let them know you care to help them or to begin that conversation which allows you to learn more about them, this job allows for us to truly connect with those we serve. Whitney also discussed the learning she has acquired, a result of getting to know the residents. “Their lives are so incredible; they have so much to share, and they want to share their lives with us.”
“One lady who is competitive at bingo and has a special card with which to play, another has certain favorites from the menu. The STNA will relay these uniquenesses, with the necessary staff. They are also the liaison, in many cases, with the family gleaning and sharing information about the resident. “They reside here,” says Whitney. “We are working in their home and we are always cognizant of this.”
Whitney discussed the value of the STNA’s role in the larger inter-disciplinary team at Holly. Our days go so smoothly because of the teamwork. When the doctor comes into visit one of their patents, to update their care plan or write new orders, they will want to know how the patient is doing. The information provided to the physician often comes directly as a result of the report the nursing assistant provides to the nurse and in turn the nurse provides to the doctor. The nursing assistant is the first line of defense to get on the front end of recognizing and communicating a change in condition. This allows for early identification and intervention of heading off a problem before it becomes severe. Thus, the time spent on the assignment is a vital piece of delivering for the highest quality of care.
Another byproduct of working in this type of environment are the friendships that are developed with coworkers. These STNAs are friends outside of work as well. Also, they are real with the residents. “As STNAs, we need to invite them into our lives, they want to invite us into theirs,” added Whitney. One of the greatest compliments to many STNAs is to hear the resident’s family members express how they have become a large part of their family.
For five years, Whitney worked as an STNA and during that period she received her degree in nursing at Kent State. She took a position at Marymount Hospital east of Cleveland for a couple of years and found this experience challenging and indispensable.
She now works as a registered nurse on the nurse leadership team for the facility. She continues to work at Marymount one day each week, feeling that this experience helps tremendously with incoming residents and communication with hospital staff.
Several of the STNAs throughout the Ohman Family Communities locations have worked in that capacity for
10-30 years. It is truly a most challenging and rewarding career.