“Let go of me you f*cking bastard. You have no right to keep me here!!!”
As she attempts to swing her frail legs over the bedrail for the umpteenth time I caution her to be careful. She is surprisingly strong, despite her small size. Fueled by a determination brought about by delirium, she has her mind set to: “get the hell outta here!!”
Assigned as a “safety advocate”, my job is to prevent another fall. I gently placed her legs back in bed and straightened her sheets. She responded with a series of punches and kicks.
“Maggie, don’t do that, I’m just at trying to help,” I respond.
“Go to hell!” She screeches while picking at her I.V. Lines.
Grabbing hold of her hands so she’s unable to pull at her I.V., I remind her:“Don’t do that or you’ll bleed.”
While covering the lines with kerlix, I divert her attention to what’s on t.v. A look of disgust forms on her face as she responds: “You know what, you’re a f*cking idiot. I’m getting the hell out of here and you have no right to keep me!”
As she swings her legs over the berail again, I try to reorient her. Feeling like a broken record at this point, I ask her:“Maggie do you know you are?”
Ignoring my question she responds, “Oh get out of my way you moron!”
“You’re in the hospital because you’re sick, remember?” I ask, praying for a glimmer of recall from within the reaches of her foggy brain.
Sadly my efforts prove futile as she looks at me with disgust “Oh shut up, You’re a liar!”
As I swing her legs back in bed, she grabs my arm and starts wringing it like a damp wash rag. Her beautiful cherry red nails dig deep into my skin, as I wince in pain. Noticing this, a devilish grin forms on her face. She digs her nails in even deeper. Small crescent shaped marks form up and down my arm.
Unsure of what my options are at this point, I decide that verbal discussion is pointless. She has no desire to hear what I have to say. My heart throbs in my chest as I struggle to defuse a situation that is becoming increasingly unmanageable. I decide to let her continue kneading my arm like silly putty despite the ensuing pain. At least this way, I reason, she’s not trying to get out of bed….
After 40 minutes of this, the nurse finally brings in a shot of Haldol. Before too long Maggie finally falls asleep. It is 2:00 a.m. Now alone with my thoughts I struggle to stay awake. Desperately in need of caffeine, I’m afraid to drink my stale coffee, since it might make me pee. I really need to use the bathroom, but am afraid to ask for a break. Short staffed and without a tech on the floor, the nurses are on edge. I decide to hold off on that a while. Alone with my thoughts now, the room is pitch black. I stare absent-mindedly out the window and watch as the four-way stoplight rhythmically flickers leaving red streaks on the rain-soaked pavement.
Since this is my third 12-hour weekend night shift, I’m physically and mentally exhausted. My mind wanders onto thoughts of housework and unfinished assignments. A mental piss-moan session ensues as I consider all that life requires of me. As a full time student, I also work for a large hospital-system float pool & often feel like a dumping ground for everyone’s frustrations, worries, and concerns. My goal is to provide good care. I try to remain empathetic, but frequently struggle. I ‘m exposed to extreme situations. The people I care for are not feeling well. Consequently, patients like “Maggie” often use me as an emotional punching bag. They’re frustrated, feel like shit, I’m readily available to take it.
However, I’m often not allowed to say what I feel. The emotions build up inside. During my evening with “Maggie”, I try to remember that her behaviors are symptomatic of delirium. This is not the loving wife, mom, and grandmother her family described to me earlier. After several shifts like this the frustration can overwhelm me.
Grateful to sit for once, the events of a previous shift enter my mind. I was the only tech with 26 patients on a pins floor. All vitals were q4, everyone was a daily weight, and call lights flickered like a Christmas tree. The cherry on top of this fine sundae, were all the lazy nurses I worked with. One in particular had a patient that was pooping hourly. She refused to change him. As the end of the shift neared, she asked me to change him for the umpteenth time. Since I was the only tech on the floor, I was already swamped. I wondered if she noticed how busy I was. Still, I smiled and bit my tongue.
sick & tired
The stories in this post do not represent a specific patient I’ve cared for. Instead, I’m hoping to provide a small taste of what I deal with as a CNA for a large hospital system. I try my best and pray for strength on my way to work. I struggle to hold onto the meaning in what I’m doing as a direct care provider. Still I’m worn out, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As a wife, mother, and healthcare worker all I do is tend to the needs of others. Today I’ve become the summative reaction to the needs of others.