It was 55 degrees in Sochi while we were expecting Snowmageddon
Jacqueline Vance, RN
This one is subtitled “Nursing facility personnel are essential and other things the world wasn't anticipating.” Yes, while the temperature unexpectedly rose in Sochi, Russia, making winter sports precarious for many of the Olympic athletes, we on the East Coast and in other areas were having weather issues of our own. “Snow” is a four-letter word in its own right in the healthcare arena.
When those in winter sports hear the word snow and let their hearts race out of excitement. We hear the word and our hearts race and, well, we also often want to throw up.
The majority of the population “prepares” for snow by stampeding the stores and buying (at least here in the mid-Atlantic region), bread, milk and toilet paper. Now this is a phenomenon that has yet to be explained, (and for once I am not exaggerating).
They even show it on the news: people queued up in lines for hours, loaded up with loaves gallons, and cases. They even dub it a “winter white sale.” I don't get it.
I mean, OK, bread to make sandwiches if you lose power. And milk for hot cocoa. But all that TP? What, is everyone lactose intolerant? How long do they think they are going to be snowed in? Seriously, if I'm going to be stuck in my house that long with my family, I'm going to a different store and stocking up on the Grey Goose. (“Be a good girl and get Mommy another olive!”)
For the minority who don't have the luxury of staying home, you are in a class of essential workers. Those who have to show up no matter what: police, firefighters, those wonderful people who salt and plow the roads, hospital personnel, nursing home personnel, and many others. At least we know that.
See, when I was working in the hospital, and we would get significant snow where I could not make it to the hospital on my own, I could just call the National Guard and they would come get me. All I had to do was make it to a major road.
But that changed when I dedicated myself to geriatrics and started on the nursing facility side. I called the National Guard only to find out I was no longer “essential.” I mean, come on, nursing homes are just full of slightly confused old people, not sick people like hospitals, right?
I honestly am not sure when we will ever get the public to see that we have become chronic care hospitals, with people with multiple comorbid illnesses, and are on a bucket of medications. About 80% of them have some form of dementia, and, oh, we don't tie them down because they might wander. And we don't stick a Foley Catheter in them because they are incontinent (as they often do in the hospital) and we actually bathe them and change their sheets if there's an incident and …
But asking the world to understand the complex and excellent care we give is like asking the malpractice law firms to stop making TV commercials convincing the public that there is no such thing as an unavoidable event (like, umm, dying of old age!) in a nursing home.
However, there is an unexpected beauty here. The director of nursing knows he or she is essential, of course, and she will call in every favor, call every person she knows with a 4-wheel drive to help get the personnel in.
No matter how rural, no matter if the staff member normally takes public transportation that is no longer running, they will get staff there. And they will discover something else: The staff who recognizes themselves as essential will put their nursing facility family before their own.
These last few weeks, I have read so many wonderful, moving Facebook posts of DON friends, writing things such as “just got home after 3 days at the facility. Looking forward to sleeping but thinking how blessed I am to have such a dedicated staff.” Or “Still here at the facility. I should be exhausted but my amazing staff energizes me. I can't believe how much we are able to do together and still get a few laughs in.”
So maybe the world doesn't expect nursing facility personnel to be essential, but you are and, frankly, you're pretty darn amazing!
Just keeping it real,
The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.