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  • Retention, Reliability, and Dedication
  • Renee J. Tillman

I love what I do. I am a Hospice and Palliative Nurse Assistant. I have been for 16 years. I have worked in this field for 37 years—in long term care, private duty and home health. I still like getting up and going to work. I have a great work ethic. I think it came about when I started working for Leader Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. My plans were to become a nurse, just like my mother. This employer believes that if he contributed to his employees by way of educating them he would accomplish two things. Loyal employees and highly skilled nurse aides. He knew we were the backbone of his center and believed in his strategy to give the very best care his employee's could provide.

I was one of the first nursing assistants in the building. I started on the 11-7 shift, myself and a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). She was a gem. In a four story building. They had security for us. They started from the top and filled the building up. I was never so proud to be a nurse aide. Pretty soon we were filled. I worked the night shift for three years and decided to go to the day shift, 7 to 3. [End Page 154]

It was then that I decided this profession was for me, and I was going to be the best. Everything we did was a learning experience. We received report at the beginning of our shift. We were asked to be on the job 15 minutes before shift, and we did so without pay. We felt it was important to get information to care for the residents. The incentives were what they called the Leader Ladder. This Ladder was there for you to climb to the highest occupation in the nursing field you wanted to go, with the help from the scholarship program in place. The goals of the employer were retention, reliability, support, and dedication from the employees.

That is not in place today, especially in the long-term care settings. There is a revolving door in most places. In most places employees don't even have nametags. If they do have them, they're in the pockets just to swipe the clock. Uniforms are not decent, I mean wrinkle-free and clean. Even hair and faces are not groomed. Yes I see this today. We are the forgotten, the invisible. Shame on those watch dogs. When I was with Leader, I would watch my nurse do everything—catheters, suctioning, wound care—everything. We used to do wound care and finger sticks. In some places, they don't even let the aides do vital signs.

One of the cases I will never forget, this was at a rehabilitation center with a floor that was skilled. This lady was admitted. She was only 60. She had the biggest tumor I had ever seen on the side of her neck; it was cancerous. The tumor was growing outside her neck. I was just 25. When we received report that morning, we were told of physical and history, where she was with her disease, and that she had come there to die. She had no family. We quickly became her family. She was tall and skinny with dark hair. We were also told how she would die and to be prepared so it would not be scary for her or for us. She was going to bleed to death from the tumor. But, our biggest challenge, you see, was not to show that there was an odor when in her room or where ever she was. The cancer was very foul-smelling. I think that is why she loved us; we acted like there was no smell. The day she died, her tumor started a steady flow of blood. She knew it was the end. We had dark towels for her, she lay in her bed, she was never left alone. We had our work to do, but she was never left alone. What I remember the most is her eyes; you see, she could not speak that day. She...


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pp. 154-155
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