The frontline of comfort in nursing homes, CNAs face extra challenges

By Emily Branson / Staff writer

Before I even start to write this, I want to say thank you to all people that have been deemed essential workers since the start of this pandemic. Whether you’re in healthcare, retail, maintenance, custodial, teaching, or so many other positions – thank you. The world would be in an even bigger mess without you.

That being said, I wanted to write about my perspective as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in a nursing home during this time. I’m sure many people have seen what the doctors and nurses are saying about the chaos of this mess, but it’s just not the same for me.

As a CNA, I spend the entirety of my shift working closely with my residents. I provide their daily care, listen to their thoughts and feelings, and help them work through their struggles. And since this virus has spread, everything at my job has gone downhill.

The first step we had to take to protect our residents was to not allow visitors into our facility anymore. This meant friends, family members, and spouses couldn’t come to visit their loved ones. Every day I have multiple residents ask me where their spouse is because the sudden change is hard for them to remember. They ask when they’ll come to see them again, and I have to explain that I don’t know when this will all be over. I don’t know when they’ll see their husband or wife again.

After we started to limit our visitors, we had to begin wearing masks for our entire shift. Residents were confused and scared as to what was happening. Some thought we were wearing masks because of them, that this virus was their fault. I had a resident hold my hand and cry to me that they were sorry we had to do this.

Then we had to implement a rule that all residents had to eat meals in their rooms. That one was hard. It has had one of the biggest impacts. Some residents only come out of their rooms for meals, and for some, that’s their only time to socialize. I began to witness residents refusing to eat, which only caused more health problems. The questions flooded in as to why they had to do this.

We handle complaint after complaint and question after question every single day. We respond with love and kindness and do everything we can to help them understand. We work daily to ensure that our residents are receiving the highest quality of care while keeping them safe from the outside world. We take them on walks and open their windows and tell them jokes to keep their spirits lifted. 

We are given countless new policies to follow as the coronavirus situation expands. We limit our own personal social interactions with the world so that we can reduce the risk of bringing the virus into our facility.

Nursing has never been easy, and I love the challenge that it brings. But this virus has left many nursing employees feeling completely exhausted and running on empty. Next time you see a CNA, please thank them. The doctors and nurses are often seen as the frontlines, but CNAs spend the most time with residents daily.

And again, thank you to all those still working and providing for your families and the world. This isn’t an easy time for anyone, but together we will get through it.

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