National Nurse’s Week begin this past Monday and it will continue until next Monday. This is a beautiful time of year for healthcare professionals and anyone employed within healthcare facilities. This is a time we celebrate the wonderful nurses we have all over the country. My big sister is a nurse, and I think my own mama is probably one of the best nurses in the world. I wanted to make sure I said that on the front end, because everything I’m about to say next may give the impression that I don’t want to celebrate them. That will never be true. However, I do want to spend some time speaking up for a position closely related to the nurse – their assistant’s.
I myself have been a State Tested Nurse Assistant (STNA) for 10 years now. In my experience, there are few roles in healthcare that receive as much expectation and disrespect as the role of an STNA. Perhaps no role is more demeaned, shamed, and depreciated than the role of a STNA. But at the same time no position is more crucial, significant, and depended on, than the position of a STNA. On a week like this STNA’s are fighting for our appreciation, but unfortunately I’m never sure if we truly receive it. I don’t believe that we can truly gain the appreciation we desire if the general public doesn’t know our particular struggle. So below I will “attempt” to tell our struggle by sharing the various expectations we have from various kinds of people.
Here is my own personal list of frustrations working as a STNA (In no particular order):
Meeting House Keeping (Janitors) Expectation’s
They want us to make their clean up job easier. They either directly or indirectly try to get us to do our job better. “You got any bags?” “You see that call light?” It’s possible to feel managed by them rather than working along side them.
In-service Nurses (a rare but still annoying position)
This a person that goes around the facility carrying a paper clipboard of new policies that all employees are expected to comply with by signing their signatures (sometimes maintenance does this as well). As they explain the new policies to STNA’s in particular, their tone can often feel very authoritative. It is almost like they forget that the policies are not their own but rather the company’s, and the change of tone when speaking feels degrading.
“State Day”(or Week)
The day (or week) where it seems every employee in the building crawls out of a hole to help STNA’s give care to the residents. These are people who regularly go through much efforts to find “the aide” to assist an resident. But when State shows up they answer call lights, pass trays, even change and feed residents! Most STNA’s are never moved by this sudden change, because we know the extra efforts will cease as soon as State leaves. It is one of the most hypocritical times of the year for every department that steps up to help.
This person will hound you to pick up more shifts. The worse kind will use manipulation to get you to pick up a shift. Or when you need a day off, they won’t allow it unless you commit to working another day; usually a weekend.
The Therapy Department
I know they mean well, but they don’t always realize the load we carry with the groups we have. They also can usually share incredible teamwork among themselves, but they can at times forget that most aides work on their own. We envy the work environment that the therapy department can have. It is nowhere near as stressful as it is to work on the floor. And trust me, they are more than ready to send a patient back to the floor when they’re done with them.
Because they are all over the building, maintenance supervisors can sometimes act like the administrator’s personal assistant. They go out of their way to make sure STNA’s are doing their jobs, and they make it clear that they have a good working relationship with the administrator, so if we don’t live up to their expectations, they will quietly report us. I should mention, in my own experience I have never seen a maintenance supervisor give the nursing department the same treatment.
“Are you an aide?” This is a question that points to a unhealthy view that “the aide” and “the aide” alone is the only person responsible for meeting that resident’s needs. This is of course not true, but it is easy for residents to believe because it is cultivated by all other departments when they tell residents; “ask your aide”. Because of this, there are residents who would never expect a nurse, therapy, or maintenance professional to pass them a meal tray. These residents regularly see other departments walk pass call lights, but only expect “the aides” to answer them. It is unthinkable for some residents to ask a nurse or therapist to change their briefs or assist them to the restroom, even though both are qualified to do so. It is unthinkable for them to ask maintenance to give them a push down the hall, in their mind’s “the aides” and “the aides” alone are responsible for that. It is unthinkable to ever expect that a nurse or therapist would assist them with their ted-holes, only “the aides” can do that. Every department within a nursing home/rehab healthcare facility in particular, reinforces to the resident that “the aide” is the only one who should take care of their needs. This culture needs to change… like now.
The Resident’s Family
Being an STNA means that you are on the front lines. No individual has more interactions with the family than they do. When there is an issue with an resident/patient, the family takes it to the front lines. But the family can also share an unhealthy view of STNA’s. They don’t give us the same respect as other departments. STNA’s are apart of a select group of healthcare workers that are frequently asked of the family; “are you going back to school? Do you have a car? You don’t want to do this all your life do you?”. This is extremely offensive and proves that there is a lack of respect for the position of an STNA, even though it is a position desperately needed in healthcare; healthcare facilities couldn’t survive without them.
I could go further (like seriously I really could), but hopefully I have said enough. I can’t speak for the country but I do know in my local area most STNA’s are not enthusiastic about coming to work. They anticipate working short, and assume a day filled with physical, mental, and emotional frustration. Under the pressure of demanding work and working with little help, STNA ’s are less motivated and happy about coming to work on the floor. They feel exhausted, overwhelmed, unnoticed, and can be tempted weekly to find other work. I believe our healthcare family and the general public could benefit from taking our struggle seriously, but again I don’t feel like that is happening. And of course there are terrible STNA’s who make us all look bad, I don’t want to overlook that. But thank God they don’t represent the majority of us who are good at what we do. And on that same note, there are plenty of nurses who know the struggles of STNA’s very well, and they assist us (as well as other departments).
But this piece was not about the select few who help make sure STNA’s are assisted and appreciated. So please reread this (if needed) and understand that STNA’s bear unequal amounts of expectation and disrespect from a variety of people. May this week encourage you to bear and throw off a burden for an STNA near you 🙂