Partners in Patient Care

Partners: definition – “a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor.”

It’s what I what I was taught that my role in patient care was when I became a nursing assistant. “Partners” is supposed to describe the goal of what a nurse and a nursing assistant should be focused on during a 12-hour hospital shift: that we share the same endeavor, to care for the patients and keep them safe.

Yet, I’ve had the displeasure of working with some nurses who believe a nursing assistant exists to show subordination; that we “belong” to the nurses for that shift and our duty is to obey. Ha! I’ve spent many moments in the manager’s office asserting my personal conviction that that will never be the case.

I’ve always loved my job as a nursing assistant, from my first poopy bedpan in a nursing home, through my years working in the hospital, to my current role as a private duty caregiver. I chose to making nursing assistant work my career – even after spending seven awesome years writing at a local newspaper. I can always write. I didn’t need or want to go on writing at a newspaper. I always wanted to take care of people; to give them whatever they need to feel better. I take my role as caregiver seriously – and I’ve never needed an R.N. to follow my name to feel important.

Hence, my confusion for having to spend hours in manager’s offices for racism, insubordination accusations, personality conflicts and outright lies. One nurse actually took her lies to the Human Resources department, bent on getting me fired. After awhile I noticed that what all these incidents had in common was that I, throughout my nursing assistant career, have always believed in the partner theory – that we, the nurses and assistants were working together for a common goal. But many nurses will never ascribe to that belief. To them, a nursing assistant is someone to be ordered around, worked to death and controlled. I never questioned the need to be delegated to; that came with the territory. But unnecessary control goes against my tolerance level; and I wasn’t afraid to respectfully stand up for my beliefs.

No matter what though, their beliefs prevailed: that they, the nurses, could leave a patient’s room knowing the patient wanted a pitcher of water, and order the nursing assistant – already busy running from room to room – to go get it; that they, the nurses could draw blood or insert an i.v. and leave bloody 2×2’s, 4×4’s and needle caps all over the patient’s room for the nursing assistant to clean up; that they, the nurses could spend hours at their computers socializing and “documenting” while the nursing assistant interrupted their own documenting requirements to answer call bells, toilet patients, and run back and forth to the nutrient room; that they, the nurses could stand around bragging about their seniority within earshot of nursing assistant.

It seems to me that a nurse’s time would be better spent recognizing the eyes and ears that a nursing assistant brings to patient care; that without that partnership, she might find it difficult to complete her job.


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