You’re short-staffed to begin with and another CNA calls in sick. You already had 20 residents, and now you have 27. You want every single one of them to get the care they need and deserve, but there are only so many hours in a day…and on your shift. What do you do?

Lori Porter

No Easy Answer

I wish I could tell you there is an easy answer. I wish I could grant you a wish and have three more CNAs magically appear on your shift. I wish you could make time stand still so you could spend an hour with each resident. But the reality is that there isn’t much you can do. But before you throw up your hands, keep reading.

If you are concerned about your workload or have concerns or questions, you can go to the nurse supervisor and try to address it—or at least put the issue out in the open. Like everyone else, this person is busy; so you may have to ask more than once to get his/her attention. But it’s worth the effort. Chances are, it will be a wakeup call. It should and can be a positive conversation.

To be validated and heard, it’s about the approach. You don’t have to be insubordinate to get attention. I should know. I was written up more than once for my bad attitude. I was doing the most important job I can think of, and no one was applauding…or even seemed to notice.

I went in every day to ask my supervisor to come see my hall until she said ‘yes.” I showed her my residents, rooms, closets, wheelchairs, etc.—all clean and neat as a pin. She said that if all her CNAs were like me, she could sleep at night. It wasn’t applause, but it was close to it.

We have to learn to be successful in spite of challenges. We have to invest in CNAs and empower people in post-acute and long-term care. But for now, how do you deal with the unmanageable workloads? How can you be successful and happy in this difficult environment?

Sometimes You Have to Breathe and Let Go

Well, you could walk out, but you’d only be hurting your residents and yourself. Instead, triage the most important things you can do for residents. Specifically, keep them dry and fed. You may not have time to get everyone showered, but you can make sure they have clean, dry clothes. You may not be able to keep them company while they eat, but you can load a cart with juice, bananas, and graham crackers and go from room to room. If that is all you have time to do in a day, you need to be able to feel good about what you’ve accomplished. Take a deep breath and let go of those things you can’t control or change.

Remember, if you just hold in your frustrations, they’re going to come out one way or another. And usually it’s not a positive situation. Often, you end up saying something you come to regret. You can’t let a situation beyond your control rob you of your pride, your joy, or your accomplishments. Do what you can do and do it to the best of your ability.