“The turnover of nurses and CNAs working in Illinois nursing homes runs between 98 and 118%,” writes Lee Reilly, a CNA. “In 2019, Illinois ranked last among states in nursing home staffing — and that’s mostly CNAs.” | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
For months, I carried a hospice patient to his couch. I wash, take vitals, dress wounds. Sometimes I save a life. But don’t call me a hero. That’s society’s way of letting itself off the hook.
Coming up this week, from June 17 through the 24th, is a celebration of my profession. I’m looking forward to it. None of my former professions — tech VP, video producer, small business partner — get a national celebration. There’s no national day for brochure writers.
But this week I’m in the spotlight.
Or maybe not. We marched on Washington in April, and no one noticed.
The march was on Zoom, but that’s not why our day-long effort went unseen. It’s just that we’re certified nursing assistants, and even though there are 1.5 million of us, we’re cursed with invisibility. Also high rates of on-the-job violence. Not surprisingly, Chicago has seen understaffing in its nursing homes and strikes.
Yet, I love this job — the chance to ease family concerns, to alleviate suffering, to hear memories of a Berlin Christmas, pre-Hitler. I chose this work without compunction, after years of being in tech and the only woman in the room. This week will be a rare experience of celebration.
But do not make me a poster child. And do not make the poster board pink, or dress the cartoon CNA on the poster in a nursing outfit from the 1950s. Do not make her smile as if she doesn’t know that she works on the border between life and death. Those posters are diminishing and painful.
I wear rugged pants, sneakers, gloves, mask. For months I carried a hospice patient to his couch. I’ve battled bedbugs for months, despite Chicago’s pest control ordinance. I wash, take vitals, dress wounds. Sometimes I save a life.
But do not call me a hero. It’s a bit like calling me a saint, which is one way society lets itself off the hook from paying the kind of wages that could feed a family without public aid.
Also: Don’t give me one of those blank-page journal notebooks (sold on Amazon for $7.99) entitled, “A Truly Amazing CNA is Hard to Find and Impossible To Forget.” It’s true, America is having a hard time finding direct care workers. There’s a shortage. But good CNAs are not by nature hard to find. Here in Chicago, I’ve been surrounded by fellow CNAs for nine years.
What we are is hard to keep. Today, the annual turnover of nurses and CNAs working in Illinois nursing homes runs between 98 and 118%. In 2019, Illinois ranked last among states in nursing home staffing — and that’s mostly CNAs.
That journal’s title is right in one respect: Good CNAs are sometimes hard to forget.
Source:: Chicago Sun Times
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