Transferring from the nursing home to the hospital was a big deal for me.
You have no idea how big. Enormous. It made me so proud to put on my new ID badge and know that I wasn’t stuck in long term care any more. I would get to DO something. In a hospital. Then I realized…
I’m still just a CNA. In Washington, my license says Nursing Assistant Certified- but no matter how the words are arranged it still means the same thing.
I’m a glorified butt wiper.
I carry my cell phone in my pocket while I’m at work. Usually it’s set on airplane mode, to save battery and because I don’t use it when I’m on shift, except for the step tracker app. It runs in the background and keeps track of my steps. I average 10-13,000 steps per 8 hour shift.
In other words, I run my ass off.
“I’m just the NAC, let me get your nurse for you,” my response is always the same, and I would be lying if I said it made me feel good. Okay, sometimes I get that difficult patient whose room I am happy to escape and hand them off to whatever poor nurse is assigned to them. But usually, it just makes me feel like I’ve failed.
I should have been a nurse.
I’ve worked in the medical field for over 20 years. I started out at 22 as a Certified Medical Assistant, which at the time was the most amazing thing ever. I jumped at the training program I saw advertised on television as a way out of my single-mom-on-welfare situation. No one told me I could go to school one extra year and become an RN. If they had, I would have done it.
One of the nurses I work with now calls me “Nurse Delegate Dawn”, because I have so much medical experience and she trusts me to handle things that aren’t trusted to some of the other NACs. It makes me feel good but still, I’m just a NAC. The responsibilities and skillset I have are limited by my license and what the nurses delegate for me to do.
I operate in so many capacities. I bring food, snacks and drinks. I can do the “bed alarm sprint” in 2.3 seconds from where ever I am to where ever the alarm is blaring, and then convince said patient to sit back down on the bed because I don’t want to pick him up off of the floor. And later I may still end up picking him up off of the floor. I give showers and bed baths, empty urinals and ostomies, assist nurses with catheter insertions, dressing changes and wound irrigations.
I lift and transfer people, apply cover dressings for showers, take weak patients for walks in the hallway, take vitals, listen to their stories, joke with their families, and hold a hand as a life slowly slips from its body. Occasionally I’ve been thanked by patients or families for the care I’ve given. I can put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE) at lightning speed.
Lest you think that it’s always glamorous… I have also been bitten, had pee spilled on my head, growled at, hit, pinched, kicked in the chest, cursed 100 different ways, and even been fired by a patient. (Not that I was sad about that, but rather I felt bad for the nurse who had to deal with her for the rest of the evening. )
I used to want to be a nurse. Fast forward 20 years and here I am, a NAC in a large hospital, who feels like a failure because she didn’t continue her education when she had the chance, gave up skills and licenses that allowed her to do so much more. And now I’m too tired to go back and take all those science classes again.
In five years, my youngest kids will be grown, and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. For now, I’m just a CNA.