Notes from Windward: #71


On Becoming a Nursing Assistant

Ruben describes his new vocation

     My becoming a CNA was as much a surprise to me as it could have been to anyone who has ever known me. When I talk to coworkers about my background, I have to convince them that I made this new career choice a happy one. Luckily I don't find that too hard. Now, what is a CNA?

     CNA is short for Certified Nursing Assistant, aka. Nursing Aide. As a CNA working in a Long Term Care facility (aka. nursing home), I am one of many people responsible for the well being of its residents. CNAs are the health care professionals that spend the most time with the residents: assisting them with their activities of daily living, including personal hygiene, dressing and eating meals.

     The original inspiration behind becoming a CNA was of a more practical nature: I wanted to develop an income that could sustain my presence at Windward and allow me to actively contribute additional funds to ongoing projects. My existing professional expertise is geared toward an economy that offers manufacturing related jobs. Unfortunately finding employment in those sectors is getting harder as production sites move over seas.

     With a number of hospitals and long term care facilities in relative proximity and a high demand for trained personnel, the move to develop a "backup" career in health care seemed sensible. Of noteworthy importance is also that this is a career that could support me even in a future independent of Windward and in any part of the country.

     The community has been incredibly supportive of my decision. Together we were able to work out everything from transportation to chores. To my great fortune, Sarah got me in touch with the Oregon Veterans Home. Each quarter The Veterans home sponsors tuition and books for ten CNA students at the local Community College. A few weeks after applying for sponsorship in early February, I found my self to be one of the lucky ten.

     The CNA course at the local community college took four weeks. In that class we established a theoretical knowledgebase for our work and practiced our new skills on mannequins. The second half of the CNA course was the clinical phase at the Veterans Home, learning hands on from their nurses and CNAs and preparing for the State Exam.

     During my time in class I started to get more and more excited about the line of work I was about to enter. Technical professions are typically male dominated fields with little emphasis on the human component. Past feelings of being alone, isolated amidst hundreds of employees and the competitive atmosphere that I experienced at other jobs have me welcoming the change and looking forward to working in a people profession.

     I regard this as a prime opportunity to expand my interpersonal skills and learning to appreciate a world that is off limits to most other people. Being confronted with the end of life, death and dying, and implicitly my own mortality, on a daily basis is sure to prove challenging. Then again, I really hope to take much more from this job than just a paycheck.

     The Oregon Veterans Home has turned out to be a wonderful place to work at. The people making up the care team are all great teachers and devoted to their residents. Working along side them is fun and fulfilling and the work itself holds a lot of instant gratification. What more can I ask for? I feel confident about my future at the Veterans Home and what it will enable me to do at Windward.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71