Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

So, I guess I have Thanksgiving on the mind, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sitting around the table.  The conversations around a table, the stories we tell and retell that kind of define us as a family. We don’t just feed people at the table — we build relationships. 

Right now, I think we have a table condition! At home, we pay bills, do homework, stack “stuff,” do almost everything but eat at the table, except maybe during a holiday or special occasion.  It’s nothing new. It was once a crisis, but a problem that persists for generations becomes a condition. I mean, why would the first answer come to my mind watching a trivia show, where the question was, “What do 45% of American’s have on Thanksgiving?” be “the desire to find out you were adopted!” (By the way, the answer was take out food, so it also was depressing.)

But seriously, the average American family spends less than 13 minutes eating dinner together. It’s more like we’re just ingesting dinner isn’t it? What kind of conversation as a family can we have in 13 minutes? Or is everyone looking on their phones or in front of the TV? How can we build relationships, and grow as a family?

The table defines the home and family. We don’t need to be related. We don’t have to be the same race or religion. It’s what you do around the table that matters. But if we’re not even defining family at our homes, what the heck are we doing around the table at our facilities?

So many of us have plans for improving the “dining experience” — you know, recommending table clothes, pictures, plants, music, china and flatware. But I wonder if we think about engagement. Can I be frank? I think most of us could be doing a better job. No TVs, no phones, no CNAs conversing with other CNAs about the latest whatever. No, “Let’s get on with the job of digesting” but rather let’s have a conversation.

Why not ask our residents to talk to us? Can we ask them questions like, “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” or “What do you miss being most about being a kid?” Or “What is your favorite meal?” Or “What is the best meal you ever ate”?  

Let’s come to the table this season with a mindset to not just build a great dining experience, but build relationships and build a family.

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.