7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 2}

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Saturday, we started a series called “7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA.” Today we will conclude the series with part two. Missed part 1? Click here to read it!

As we continue our discussion on being CNAs, today we’ll be looking at a few especially real-life points. There are so many opportunities as a Nursing Assistant to either speak words of life or discourage those around us. As we look at four new points, I’d love to focus in on a few practical ideas for keeping your head up even in an extremely difficult job, encouraging your coworkers, and lifting all eyes to Jesus! Let’s dive in!

4.  Give thanks and don’t lose heart

It’s easy to complain when you work in healthcare. The truth is, I don’t usually go five hours at work without someone accidentally getting some kind of bodily fluid on me. Sometimes people yell at you. There are days coworkers lose patience and take it out on you. Every now and then, you’ll serve to the best of your ability, and a patient will lecture you on the things they think you should be doing differently.

Do not lose heart! If Jesus has called you to it, He will absolutely bring you through it!

If you want to thrive as a CNA, be willing to completely pour out and expect no recognition from anyone around. In a sense, your job as a CNA does seem to fall to “the bottom of the totem pole” in others eyes. People sometimes do treat you like “just a CNA.”

When others don’t expect very much from you, don’t fall to their low expectations. As we talked about earlier, you aren’t doing this simply so you can leave on time and chart everything right; you are here to worship Jesus and serve others.

What kind of a servant was Jesus when He was physically on earth? Think about this: He is God, and yet He served in the everyday, mundane tasks of life, all to glorify the Father. He was a carpenter! People probably didn’t thank Him very often, either!

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to serve others just as Jesus did:

 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:5-8).

If you find that you get discouraged often in your job, try memorizing the above passage, and bring it to mind whenever you’re tempted to lose heart. Jesus is with us in the hardest moments of our job.

Instead of griping over all the things you would change if you could--be that better hours, improved medical technology, respectful patients, less showers assigned to you, or a certain coworker you’d prefer not to be around--make the conscious decision to praise Him, even in the worst. Speak words of thanks to those around you, and share what you’re thankful for. When you get home from work, instead of venting about all the pressures, choose to speak of all the things there are to be grateful for (even if you can only think of a few). Start somewhere.

5. Encourage your coworkers 

Better than anyone else on the outside of healthcare, you know how hard it can be to work at the facility you’re employed at. Use this to your advantage. When a new CNA joins the team, go out of your way to welcome them and express gratitude that they have started working with you.

If you notice particular coworkers looking overwhelmed, if you are free, take a moment to ask them how you can help. Encourage them and thank them for pouring out; call to mind a specific memory of something they did especially well a few days before and tell them why you appreciated it.

There are so many practical ways you can encourage those you work with. For example, where I work, every shift each CNA has to take out a big bag of trash from their wing. One day, I realized my trash was gone! My coworker had taken both their own and my trash for the day. Sometimes it’s the little acts of service that go the longest way.

When others encourage you, take time to honor those who have trained you and taught you. A certain lady I work with took me under her wing when I was new, and she helped me organize my tasks, gave me practical tips on handling specific situations, and sometimes even made beds for me. It meant a lot. She knew that, at first, I had a hard time picking up my pace, so she came alongside me and made sure I felt confident in my job. The other day at work she told me: “Wow girl, you’re really doing it!” when I had finished all my tasks early; instead of assuming it was just experience, I realized she had been one of the main reasons I was able to improve. In giving words of encouragement, she gave me the opportunity to honor her for all she had taught me.

Think about your job… Who trained you and showed you how it’s done? Thank them. Who gives you a hard time? Encourage them.

6. Embrace the art of caring for others as a CNA

I’ve always loved the art of music and drama, but I had never considered nursing to also be an art. It’s always felt like a systematic science kind of profession to me, but then I read these words by Florence Nightingale:

“Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body--the temple of God’s Spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said the finest of Fine Arts.” [1]

It’s so neat to take this perspective on your job as a CNA. We have the incredible opportunity to care for human beings; we care for the temple of the Spirit of God. What an honor! By His grace, we are working to sustain and improve life--rather if that is helping them fight off a bacterial infection in the hospital, or maintaining independence in assisted living--we get to care for the only creations made in the image of God: human beings.

We are CNAs. We wipe away tears, clean up messes, put smiles on faces, respond to moments of emergency, give hope to the hopeless, share a laugh to encourage those who face heavy diagnoses, give bed baths, reposition patients, shower, bathe, dry, and maintain the health of the largest organ in the human body: skin!

Take a moment to realize the honor you have in being a CNA. Even if you would rather be an RN or a doctor someday, while Jesus has you in the place of serving as a nursing assistant, do it to the fullest of your ability. Most likely, if you get a different position in healthcare in the future, you’ll never again have as much one-on-one time with your patients. Embrace it while you have it!

See your residents as individuals with real needs, realizing that the Lord has uniquely equipped you to serve others by assisting them to maintain their health (within your scope of practice).

7. Remember those who have gone before you

When I was training to be a CNA, I read through a biography of Florence Nightingale’s life. It was so encouraging to me to be able to see the example of another nurse who had experienced many of the things I see on a daily basis in my profession.

When we have examples of other healthcare workers who have gone before us in serving others, it can give fresh inspiration, especially if you have a job that tends to be repetitions of the same skills again and again. It’s easy to feel like you just need to get through the day as an aid, but when we see the “full view” of a life of a nurse--through a biography, documentary, etc.--it inspires one to think of how care can be given in light of improving the individual’s overall life.

When you go to work every day, you don’t always realize that the patterns and habits you set make a lasting impact. We can share Christ’s love intentionally or we can float through from one day to the next. Let’s purpose to be the kind of CNAs who do the former! We have special opportunities to care for others needs that not many other people do. And we can do so with joy unspeakable!

There are a few particular resources I have enjoyed so far:

And there are so many more that could be added to this list! Learning to care for others well in the healthcare setting truly is an endless frontier in and of itself. I don’t know about you, but I am often very encouraged by those who have gone before me and have been faithful to live life to the fullest, right where God had them.

My friend from missions school who is a Registered Nurse once made this statement:

“Yes, I care for people’s physical bodies, but it should only be a tool to rescue their souls. This life is so feeble and insignificant in comparison to the eternity… people are experiencing” (Emily Stoltzfus).
Regardless of where we work--a hospital, homecare setting, long term care facility, or anywhere else--we know Who it is that has called us to serve others: Jesus. He is with us at every moment and will lead us through each task and patient He places in our path. The only reason we can serve others well is because the Servant of all dwells in us; He is the One who will give us the grace, kindness, and strength we need for every task.

All because of Jesus, we can face our often difficult jobs as Nursing Assistants with joy, and find purpose in each task, since it can all be done as worship to Him.

[1] Florence Nightingale, as quoted by S.L. Page in her book How To Pass Nursing School (S.L. Page, 2013), p. 5

7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 1}

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today marks one year as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and in celebration, I'm sharing a two part series with practical encouragements for CNAs. :) 

It was four days into clinicals at a veterans’ facility. My mind was tired and groggy that morning on the bus as I pondered how close the semester evals were; I had a lot of practice to do in the lab, and I needed to review the infection control unit. I looked out the window at the deep snow. We were about ten minutes away; quickly, I checked my ID and scrubs to ensure I had everything I needed for the day.

How am I going to do all this on my own someday?

The thought of having to give full care to multiple individuals by myself in the future seemed quite baffling. During a regular morning of clinicals, two or three student CNAs would be assigned to one resident, and we would have over an hour to complete a bed bath, brief change, dressing, sheet change, oral care, shaving, transferring, and ambulating the individual. I couldn’t imagine how I could do all that by myself on one shift, not to mention the fact that there would probably be eight to twenty people under my care.

What would I do about call lights? What if I get assigned four showers? What if my resident faints? How do you handle inappropriate patients? What if the facility I work for doesn’t train me well?

My mind was filled with questions. Seeing healthcare up close and personal was quite different than lab, textbook, and lecture learning. They had given me a great knowledge base, but I found it difficult to practically take charge over someone else’s personal health when I was given the assignment. If I’m responsible for keeping them healthy as much as possible, how do I handle when they reject care? If they won’t let me brush their teeth, then their oral health will get worse…

I have to follow HIPPA, OBRA, resident rights, infection control, the facility's policies, and my charge nurse’s instructions. How do you keep all those plates spinning at once?

It seemed impossible! As the bus hit a bump, I opened my clinical folder and looked over my previous clinical write ups. Underneath was my nursing assistant textbook with a bunch of index cards. I flipped through them, half distracted as I thought about how experienced aids seemed to handle everything they were assigned so well. How to get there was the question on my mind.

Now that I have been a licensed CNA for one year, and since these clinical memories are almost a year and a half old, I thought it would be a great time to address some of those new CNA jitters.

7 Practical Encouragements For The New CNA

1. Remember the purpose of your work
As a CNA, you will not lose your motivation to do well because of your job, but because you forget why you do your job.

Think to when you first decided to sign up for your CNA class; what sparked your interest? If you’ve been through clinicals or internship, or have had some other kind of first-hand experience in healthcare, then you have an advantage.

When you begin studying to be a nurse assistant, it’s easy to romanticize the profession. You picture smiling patients that are oh-so-grateful for everything and love having you as their aid. You think of getting to sit back with “the cool people” at the nurses' station, and laughing at a sweet moment of the shift. You see yourself performing CPR to rescue a patient who stopped breathing, only for them to sit right up and cough--a sure sign of life--and leave knowing you made a serious impact on that individual, because they couldn’t have lived through that morning without you.

Having experienced a veteran’s home, the acute neuro floor in a hospital, and an assisted living facility as a nursing assistant, I can tell you for sure that these moments do happen sometimes! However, when you go into work with the perspective that you have to do some great big life saving performance in order for your work to be valuable, the “normal” moments of being a CNA being to drag and feel like they are not worthwhile.

But if you go into any job, internship, or situation with the heart to serve others and share Jesus’ love with them, regardless of the circumstances, you will be equipped to pour out well in any healthcare setting.

Remember that it’s not about being a hero; each task, even just pulling open the blinds, is all to be done as worship to the King of kings.

A.W. Tozer once said:

 “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

He continues:

“Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never-so-simple task, he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3).” [1]

All our work is sacred. It is important. Each moment we give care to someone is not simply to keep them alive and well (it is), but our true purpose in serving others is to worship Jesus. This perspective can change everything about your job and life! Instead of looking at your care plans first thing in the morning and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work the day will require, you can be entirely thrilled for an opportunity to worship Him! See your every assignment as a chance to magnify Jesus.

2. Know that you answer to the Great Physician before anyone else

Sometimes we work under doctors who are rude to us or ignore us, but the Great Physician is always with us. Jesus is the healer; it’s His nature to bring about fullness and fruitfulness where there has previously been brokenness and disease. Although He does not always physically heal others, we know that if our patient knows Jesus, then they have everything they need for life and godliness.

Let your soul’s first turn be to Him. When your patient is unstable while you’re transferring them, be quick to ask for help from other healthcare workers, if you need it, but let the first cry of your heart be to your only Solid Rock. (Of course, in moments of crisis, outwardly it probably looks like we first call the nurse [which is a very good idea when problems arise!], but we know Jesus is the one who truly delivers us. Let your heart turn to Him for help).

Who would better know how to care for a physically or mentally ill individual than the One who created the body? Our God invented fingertips, red blood cells, your tongue, the arterioles and venules, and brain waves. He is the One who told our hearts to start beating just five weeks after conception and has sustained it through this day. Remember this truth when you’re at a loss for how to give care to your resident or patient. Jesus knows.

The highest authority in your life is Jesus. Here’s where this comes to play in healthcare: if one of your patients is pursuing medically assisted suicide or the hospital you work at performs abortions, remember what matters most. It’s not getting an award for working for thirty years at the same facility. It’s not blindly agreeing with a doctor of nurse above you in leadership if they instruct you to do something that defies the Word.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality // Desmond Tutu

 When it comes time for you to pursue employment, I encourage you to explore the hard questions. Does this hospital ever, for any reason, perform abortions? Even on another floor? Does this facility have a policy regarding medically assisted suicide? (At the moment, it’s illegal in MI, but it’s gaining approval and popularity around the US, so be watchful).

In short, even in the secular world we live in, we must have conviction. Honor and love those who are above you in leadership, while knowing that you will answer to Jesus for what you’ve done in your work, not the MDs and RNs. As long as what they ask you to do is ok, follow their instructions to the best of your ability and treat them as individuals who are made in the image of God. Remember how Jesus longs for them to come to know Him; no one is beyond His ability to redeem. Keep in mind that you are showing them, and everyone else around, what it looks like to live out the Gospel.

Whenever someone recovers, you know the One behind it. Worship Him for His faithfulness to heal, and His sovereignty to allow some to pass even when we don’t understand why.

3. Don’t be overwhelmed

When I got my first job in healthcare, I was completely over the moon! My first morning of learning under one of my soon-to-be coworkers, I went out and bought new scrubs just for the occasion. Even though I had already experienced clinicals and an internship, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I observed. Watching the CNA who I was shadowing had me back to the day on the bus. How in the world will I be able to do all this alone?

 It’s easy to feel you are in over your head when you are new to healthcare, but realize that every nursing assistant you work with has been there. At first, when I finished training, I was not as productive as I wanted to be. I was supposed to be able to leave by 10:00 each evening, but sometimes I would leave as late as 11:30. Since I was also balancing classes and two other part time jobs, the inconsistent schedule was not working very well for me. I was getting four hours or less of sleep each night, which made me feel more pressure at work.

I encourage you not to do what I did in my first job. Because I was saving up for missions school I had to work three jobs and didn’t have another option, but, if you are able, I strongly encourage you to scale back your schedule when you first start working in healthcare. It will greatly reduce the stress and restlessness you might otherwise experience if you are taking on too much.

Maybe you do have a balanced schedule and get enough sleep, but still feel overwhelmed in your job. Ask yourself a few questions: why am I working here? What is the purpose of my job? (See #1). What is stressing me out? Why do I feel overwhelmed?

Sometimes, in long term care facilities like nursing homes, assisted living, and veterans homes, you feel a lot of pressure. It can be very hard to work with slow individuals on a fast paced schedule. If you are having trouble with your residents or patients being upset with you for taking too long or not getting to their room quickly enough, try your best to evaluate your productivity. Am I moving as quickly as I can while also being thorough and making sure my patients are doing ok?

Another very important key is communication.When it takes you awhile to get to a call light, explain to your resident that you were assisting someone else and came as quickly as possible. Sometimes, for whatever reason, patients assume that you’re being lazy or ignoring them. Taking a brief moment to tell them why it was a bit of time for you to arrive can ease the situation (don’t forget to observe the HIPPA Privacy Rule while explaining); if your patient is still flustered, then sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, and quickly distract them by helping them with whatever they need assistance with.

Make sure you are also communicating with your charge nurse and fellow CNAs. If you truly have too much on your plate, be willing to ask for help. As time goes on at your new job, you will find out who to ask for help and who not to ask. Some people will act inconvenienced when you ask them to help you; be sensitive to their schedule and priorities, but also realize that healthcare is not a solo act; it’s teamwork! As you quicken your pace (trust me, you will get faster!) you will eventually be able to return the favor more often. When you have a free moment, ask your coworkers how you can help.

If you want to do well in healthcare, you absolutely must be a team player! It will be a key that helps you keep your head above the water.

Ultimately, remember that your security does not come from doing everything just-so in your job. Your security comes from Jesus Christ alone. You are complete in Him.

Curious about the next four points of encouragement? Join us Monday on the blog!

1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 130-131.

Gaining Lasting Security

Friday, April 6, 2018

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, cleaning up after the kids I nanny (who had just gone down for nap), when I suddenly froze and stared at the floor. It wasn’t the crushed chips and sandwich crusts that caught my attention, but a painful memory. It was as if I were reliving the moment, my mind flashed a past situation before me. On a warm Windsor day, I was looking into the eyes of a teacher whose expectations I had not met. No words had been used as I walked by the individual, but volumes were spoken to my heart. You knew better. What were you thinking? You have not met the standard of this school. I don’t care for you. Maybe you shouldn’t have come here. Would this teacher actually have said these things to me if the moment had allowed? I do not know. As my eyes glazed over the brown hardwood floors, I realized that I was allowing this past circumstance to shape me. I was letting a memory paralyze me.
I remembered the temperature of the room. How I felt. The way I wanted to disappear. Yet none of that helped me to move forward. I came to the realization that I could either continually let this memory steal all my confidence and peace whenever it came up, or I could place it in Jesus’ hands and move on. What are we to do when those around us reject us and we feel out of place? Should we cave to insecurity and give others control over our sense of worth? Praise Jesus that we never have to live like that since we are in Christ. And if we have been living in that way, He is fully able to help us to move on and place our confidence in Himself alone.

3 Thoughts on Gaining Lasting Security 

Evaluate your perspective

How do you see your circumstances? Do you believe they have the power to dictate the response of your soul? If I look at life this way, I am seeing everything out of the lens of a victim. Even if the worst has come to worst, never forget that the work Jesus accomplished at the cross on your behalf cannot ever be undone! He has been entirely Victorious over the enemy; He has set you free. And we are held in the hollow of the hands of this Victor. You are being carried at this very moment in victory! Hurt cannot undo redemption. Problems cannot undo redemption. Others disliking us cannot undo redemption. Cling to the Truth that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s what His Word tells us!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-39).

Don’t allow the opinions of others to make or break you

Security does not mean that everyone thinks well of us and likes us. It is very well possible that the teacher I mentioned above actually does feel that way about me, but, you know what? Others’ dislike or harshness can never change the reality of our position in Christ. The work Jesus accomplished on my behalf will never be changed by the opinions of those around me. When I sidewalk counsel, there is a pro-choice lady who I try to reach out to who regularly tells me, “I do not like you!!” Does that mean I should quit counseling and go home? Nope. Wherever Jesus has led us, we need to remember that we answer to Him for what we are doing. I will not answer to that pro-choice lady or to that missions school teacher but to Jesus. (Of course we must still respect authority, but my teacher does not have authority to change my sense of security because my security is in Jesus. I do not have to be shaken regardless of what is said because I am founded on the Rock whom no storm may ever confound).

Set your mind on the Sufficient One

Remember that life is too great a burden to carry yourself. You cannot do this alone (John 15:5). You NEED Jesus in order to thrive in the spot in which He has placed you. In our culture, the message of self-sufficiency is continually preached. “You are stronger that you think.” “You don’t need others! You’re a strong, independent woman.” But the Word of God shows us that humanity is insufficient. We could not save ourselves—we did not have what we needed to be rescued—only Jesus was strong enough to conquer sin, death and hell. Jesus, our Victor, lives in us and He is the One who has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. Preach to your soul the reality of His ability and strength in our weakness. He goes with us through every circumstance of the day. As we continue on, we will experience difficulty. The enemy loves to try to shake us up, but what’s amazing is that our Jesus does not only walk with us through the beautiful open fields of life, but also the wilderness. In seasons where we feel a regular propensity to cave to insecurity, may we then, in a new way, regularly experience His grace, which brings us to victory!
My security is not found in everyone enjoying my presence or in perfected circumstances, but solely in my Redeemer. We are free in Christ, and we may experience this liberating reality of victory most when challenges arise. The next time insecurity comes knocking, lift your soul’s vision to Jesus. And, in the words of a lovely old hymn, the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. [1]

1. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel