Little life lessons on the job

I don’t always enjoy my job and it can feel like a real burden on top of everything else I have to do, but this week I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities it has afforded me. I guess I should explain what it is I do first. Last summer I worked nights at the nursing home to get my certification as a nurse’s assistant (the lowest position on the nursing totem pole). Frustrated with the conditions there I got a job as a home health nurse. With the exception of a quadriplegic man I aide, I’ve really been serving as a cook, a maid, and primarily a companion.

This week a client of mine lost her brother. As she was crying on my shoulder I realized the importance of my job and my role in her life. To abide by HIPPA, I shall call this client Jane. Jane lost her husband nearly 10 years ago but has never recovered. She has a steadily progressing case of dementia and frequently has confused breakdowns. Most days the three hours I spend with her are the highlight of her day because it is the most of anyone she will see. Don’t get me wrong, her family loves her dearly and those nearby devote any spare time and energy they have to her, but her condition has clearly been wearing on the family for many years now. It’s heartbreaking for me to see Jane confused and scared; I can’t imagine how it feels for the family. Jane always receives me so warmly and is so thankful for my company that I feel loved and worthwhile on days I spend with her. So I guess Jane has taught me to never underestimate the impact we have on the lives of others.

A few months ago I began cooking dinner and reading the paper for “John.” John has a wealth of stories that I immensely enjoyed the first time around and try to appreciate the second and third times as well. He is a life long resident of northeast Missouri and has painted for me vivid pictures of the area in its various conditions over the last 80 years. Recently I’ve been thinking of the value of stories like John’s and just how many have been lost forever. Of course the first car John and his brothers bought and what his family used to eat during the depression are seemingly insignificant, but it isn’t it little stories like these that make up a greater story?

I help “James” get ready for work a few days a week. He had a tree fall on him when he was nearly my age and has been paralyzed since. The first day I met James he said something to the effect of, “I could lay here and feel sorry for myself and be terrible to everyone I come in contact with, but then I’d be alone and miserable.” As I’m sure my friends and family can testify, I’m naturally a perfectionist and tend to get hung up on little details of my life that don’t go my way. James often reminds me to make the most of any situation and find joy in the little things in life.

  1. #1 by Hanna Faith on February 2, 2010 - 6:50 pm

    Cameron, I love this post. It’s really cool that you have a job that impacts people so directly, especially those who don’t have other people to turn to. Thanks for sharing these stories.

  2. #2 by Rebecca on February 4, 2010 - 10:23 pm

    It is really awesome to see the depth with which you reflect on these types of situations. This is a trait that I really admire. I really hope that as you get further into your profession you will never forget to remind yourself of the significant role you play. You are going to do great things in life, I can tell. I’m lucky to be getting to know you on this trip!

  3. #3 by Paul on February 6, 2010 - 6:19 pm

    My mom works as an in-home CNA for the elderly too, so I can respect what you do. It’s not the most glamorous job, but as you mentioned it has a profound impact on the people you serve. You seem to bring a great attitude to the job- that’s awesome!

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