“I’m Still Standing” is the theme for CNA Week 2022, based on the song by Elton John. We felt this completely represented how CNAs feel after the last two years. On a Facebook post that reached thousands of CNAs, this question was posed: When you think of what you’ve been through the last two years, what one word comes to mind? After reviewing the answers, I am going to use these words to tell you a story.
CNAs across the nation have been on the frontline of a war—a war that no one saw coming and no one knew anything about. None of us—including facility administrators, clinical leaders, and others—were prepared, and we were already weakened from years of being short-staffed, overworked, and underpaid. They were also left behind by a government that never gave them a second thought or sent them any form of protection or guidance until the media started slaughtering them as the reason thousands of nursing home residents were dying. That did not deter us, as CNAs, from our posts.
Words Paint a Picture
Already exhausted, CNAs carried heavy loads on their shoulders during this war. They had to wear many hats to meet the needs of the ones they were caring for. They were the people who became family, friends, hairdresser, barber, Bible reader, confidant, and much more as families and visitors were banned from entering the buildings.
After a few months, CNAs grew tired, and the solitude and workload made them feel like things were out of control. This made them feel crazy, as if they might lose their mind with no relief in sight. Imagine the tremendous pressure they were under as they had to watch the people they were sacrificing themselves to care for become depressed and withdraw into a world of loneliness and despair—doing their best but knowing they could only do so much.
CNAs felt as if they were drowning in a sea of sickness and death This didn’t just involve the people they were caring for but also those they worked beside every day. The mental health of these caregivers was being battered as they watched people die alone with only them there to hold their hands. They watched family members pressing their faces to the windows of their loved ones’ rooms as tears streamed down their faces, while they longed to provide their dying loved one with a last touch or the ability to whisper their goodbyes and I love yous in their ears. The only words that come to mind from experiencing this is PTSD.
Despair But Also Strength
This nation’s CNAs were strong; they showed their resilience, and their strength was like none no one had ever seen. They stood tall, proud of their fellow CNAs. Battles were won with every life that made it through, just as battles were lost with every life lost.
Tragically, many CNAs also lost their lives while fighting this war caring for the sick and frail. Some CNAs were worn down and felt they had nothing left inside to fight with anymore, so they made the choice to retire or transfer to another career altogether. Not surprisingly, they experienced burnout. They went through hell and felt FUBAR. All CNAs felt this, though they didn’t let this stop them from doing their jobs.
Now, two years later, CNAs are stronger. Through this experience, they realize they are built differently; they shout “amen,” as they make it through the darkness to hopefully brighter days. They feel blessed and they hope for a brighter tomorrow.
As the song says: “I’m Still Standing better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor…” For this nation’s CNAs, these words have never been truer.
2 thoughts on “Still Standing: In the Words of CNAs”
I just returned from the AAPACN conference and spoke with a Pathways representative who said that there is governmental resistance to having an on-line certification program for nursing assistants. Is there some way that I could contribute to advancing this agenda? Online education is OK for RNs and many others. It makes no sense that CMS can complain about nurse staffing and then create endless barriers to actually initiate feasible solutions to help improve nursing home care.
Beautifully written and accurately paints the picture of the essential role the CNA has always played in residents lives, but especially during COVID. CNAs are the backbone of every nursing home am should be acknowledged, celebrated and rewarded as such.