I felt like I was breaking up with my residents last night. And I had to do it 10+ times.
It was incredibly difficult to leave these people, knowing that it is likely I will never see them ever again. How do you leave someone who you have known so intimately? I am not an expert in this. Never before have I said “goodbye” to someone who I have cared for. Frankly, I have never cared for someone in this capacity. It is not a parental role, nor is it the role of a babysitter: God no. What is it?
As a care manager, I learned the needs of all of my residents so that I could (hopefully) anticipate them intuitively, preserving as much independence as possible in every individual. I have discovered that as a grandchild, you know your grandparents on one kind of intimate level, familiar with their personality, their love, and compassion. But peel away the outermost layers of this metaphorical human-shaped onion and you may encounter closely guarded hopes and fears, basic needs, and sometimes, the most fundamentally raw emotions. You help them do the things (what we call “activities of daily living” or ADL’s) that we, as young people, don’t actively think about because they are as natural and easy to do as breathing. As one grows older, these ADL’s become monumental tasks, oftentimes requiring assistance to complete, which may be accepted with initial reluctance and insecurity. Accepting assistance establishes a degree of dependence on another human being, from which a relationship buds, that is unique and completely unreplicable. Bathing a person, picking out clothes and dressing, assisting with bathroom needs; these are the tasks that we don’t often think about doing, but in assisting someone else, they became simple pleasures for me.
Initially, I pursued my Nursing Assistant Certification for the purpose of meeting a nursing school’s requirements, which turned out to be a school that I will not attend. Since then, however, I have discovered a plethora of reasons why this was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. First and foremost, I feel calmness in my soul. As silly as it may sound, I was seeking a place for my passions to land in the year post-college and I hadn’t quite hit it on the head. I found many things that I was interested in, but not the thing that scratched my itch in exactly the right way. Caring for people does that for me. More specifically, helping people heal tickles my pickle.
Furthermore, without this experience, I wouldn’t have these memories to look back upon when I dive headfirst into an intensely rigorous accelerated nursing program. I already imagine that as my mind’s personal helicopter whirls and twirls amid all the new and foreign clinical concepts, every once in a while it will settle peacefully on the landing pad of memories formed by working with my first patients: my residents. And as this happens, I can only hope that a reflexive nurturing quality of care will take over, and I will be a good clinician. Yesterday, I was able to hear (10 or more times) that I was a good caretaker, and I will be an excellent nurse. It felt amazing. (Tangent: However, today when I got my blood drawn, I tried to watch the needle go into my skin, and imagined myself doing the same things to another person, and I felt queasy and light headed.) All I can say is this: Oh boy, I really hope my residents are right. :-s
Yesterday, as I gave out my picture frames, my residents said a number of things to me that made me want to cry and smile all at once. My most independent resident said one thing that made my internal voice squeal, “This is something to be remembered! Scribble it on your inner whiteboard!”
She is graceful and tall and she knits a multitude of sweet dish cloths like a one-person factory. I hope I never forget her strong featured face as she looked at me and said simply, “Wherever you go, and whatever you do, think of us once in a while and we’ll think of you constantly.”
I am sure that I will think of all my residents more than “once in awhile” (just as I am certain they will not think of me as often as “constantly”). But it gives me great peace in knowing that even when I struggled, I was doing a decent job. My best is good enough and these people, who know me well, truly believe in me. I feel a deep-seated consciousness that as I progress, somewhere, somehow, my residents will be watching over me.