I listen to people talk about the heartaches in their departments and often wonder who has the toughest job. Is it the administrator worried about keeping the facility going, keeping it in compliance, meeting budget guidelines, and having a happy fully staffed building? Or maybe it’s the director of nursing who has to deal with families, staff, and consumer complaints.

Work is Tough for All Departments

People who work in dietary may wonder how they will ever meet the deadlines of meal preparation for so many people when they do not have enough staff to get it done on time.

How do you make them all happy with such limited resources?

The dining team most likely worries that there is no one available to wash the dishes and clear the tables. They are probably stressed about residents who don’t like what is being served and want special orders. Laundry staff are concerned about a short supply of linens that were needed yesterday.

Nursing staff have to provide excellent care while staying in compliance with changing requirements and also working double duty because of COVID regulations. They are likely wondering if anyone else will be there to help them take on the daunting task of meeting all of the residents’ needs and requests.

Daily Struggles

As the staffing coordinator, I am told daily by my coworkers, “you couldn’t pay me enough to do your job.” Does this mean I have a horrible job? Some days I do, but that’s not true every day. My job consists of attempting to ensure we have a predetermined number of staff set by the administration. I am also in charge of making all appointments for the residents for all medical needs outside of our facility and assisting in transportation to get residents to their appointments.

On any given day, it feels like I am playing a game of Tetrus: I have to make all of the pieces fit together in the puzzle before time runs out. I must work on appointments while also finding coverage for the floor in the next four hours. Deciding what to work on, at what time, is a challenge in and of itself. I struggle daily with decisions about going out to work the floor with my coworkers to prevent them from drowning and finding staff to help for that afternoon so they won’t be in the same position.

Given the staffing shortages we are all faced with, that struggle gets worse each day. It can be very difficult to find five people to work on a day when there are only three people left to ask. How do I go home knowing they will be working twice as hard and not feel guilty about that? I worry constantly about wanting to do something to ensure this doesn’t happen. I work on my days off and stay late to help as much as I can. But sometimes it’s just not enough.

Meeting Many Demands

Frustration sets in when you have spent five hours calling everyone and getting the last three positions filled and then have four people call off. It feels like the whole day was a waste. What do you do at that point? My anxiety goes through the roof, and I find myself feeling a mixture of emotions on those days. I wonder if I can continue to do the job and whether I am failing at it.

When coworkers tell you how bad it is “out there” and you know you cannot fix it, I realize that they are not pointing blame. But I also know that it is a cry for help. The feeling of helplessness that this creates becomes overwhelming for everyone.

Do people understand the amount of stress involved with trying to handle all of these necessities or do they just see it as another person who just sits in the office that could be out there helping them? I feel people are missing more work now than ever before because of the extra stress of having to work twice as hard. I believe that many are burning out faster or wearing down and getting sick more often.

The Rewards of Being a CNA

On the days when I feel the most beaten down, I go out and work on the floor as a CNA. As my true calling in the crazy scheme of things, it is the one thing that calms me and reminds me of why I come to work every day.

When I see my coworkers running hard and going the extra mile and then see residents smile because they are so happy to see me, it warms my heart. I tell my supervisor that I am “filling my bucket” and she gets it. She knows I get recharged by working hard and doing God’s work on the floor. Listening to the fun stories from our nation’s historians, a few jokes and kidding from my coworkers, and watching residents enjoying activities or having fun with the staff is always exhilarating for me.

When a resident asks for a hug and tells you how much you mean to them and that they love you is the best feeling in the world! The good outweighs the bad, and that is why I continue to work hard to make our residents home a great place to be.

Teamwork, Kindness, and a Helping Hand

We work in an industry where not having anyone to work is not an option. We have to really think outside of the box and come up with ways to ease many burdens. We all have our struggles and need someone to lend a helping hand.

Sometimes offering a smile and a “thank you for what you do” is enough. And sometimes helping someone get a little caught up with their work helps more than you might realize.

Teamwork is how we make a good place to work a great place to work. Be kind to one another – “we” are all we have.

About the Author

Chris Leach has been a CNA for 20 years and at her current nursing home for 12.5 years. She has served in the role of Staffing Coordinator for the last four years.