Posted: 6/2/2020 4:53:43 PM

Have You Been Sexually Harassed? Here’s What You Can Do

With the recent trend of the #MeToo Movement, an online campaign by and for women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted, how do CNAs working the female-dominated field of nursing fare in this regard? Before we go into details, we’ll share some background facts for our discussion.

What is sexual harassment and how prevalent is it in nursing?

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” It applies to both males and females. For a case to be considered harassment, it must be severe or pervasive enough to affect working conditions or create an unsafe workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers it a form of workplace violence. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes it as a workplace hazard as well.

In nursing, 60% of female nurses and 34% of male nurses report being victims of sexual harassment, and many cases are not reported. This is not an emerging problem in healthcare. In fact, it has been a menace since the time of Florence Nightingale. Even when we have the figures to show its prevalence, those who experience sexual harassment still need continued support in the workplace.

And especially for CNAs who mostly work at the bedside providing personal care, their job opens opportunities for harassers to continue their abuse and intimidation undetected.

If you are a nursing assistant in an abusive situation, here are some steps you can take:

Set boundaries.

If the harasser’s behavior towards you makes you uncomfortable, tell them to stop. Look the harasser in the eye and tell them directly that their comments, sexual advances, or inappropriate touching is disrespectful and unwanted.

If the harassment continues or if you are fearful and reluctant to confront the harasser, follow the guidelines below:

Check agency policies on harassment.

There many ways to look these up. Your agency’s website or handbook may discuss how to properly handle such cases. You can also approach an officer who is responsible for assisting sexual harassment victims. If your agency or institution does not have such an officer, ask your HR department for a copy of these policies.

Follow the procedures stated in the policies.

The policies will contain steps on how to handle sexual harassment, including an option for filing a formal complaint.

If such policies don't exist or lack appropriate content, ask the help of your supervisor or the manage.

A supervisor or manager can serve as your advocate, speak on your behalf, and confront the harasser.

Know your rights as a victim and as a worker.

Every worker has the right to a safe workplace where they can be comfortable and focused in order to do their jobs efficiently. Also, there are laws designed to protect you from agency or manager retaliation or punishment.

Know government agencies and other organizations that help fight abuse and those that can help you overcome trauma.

There are many organizations and agencies that support victims with resources and guidance. They’re there for additional support. You can find them online or sometimes promoted by your workplace.

Being a CNA is already a challenging job and you have the right to work without feeling threatened or harassed. Even if you are not a victim yourself, help stop sexual harassment by supporting movements and campaigns against harassment, and aiding victims however you can in the process.

Posted: 5/26/2020 12:34:50 PM

Heroes Without Superpowers – Proper Body Mechanics Save the Day

Caregivers do a lot in a day. By “a lot,” we mean muscle work from the beginning of the shift to the end, including running, changing bedsheets, lifting heavy items, lifting patients and clients while transferring them from the bed to a chair, walking them to the bathroom and back…the list just grows.

They do all these to care for their patients, sometimes even skipping breaks and staying late. Caregivers are heroes in their own way, but since they are only human, all this lifting and turning takes a toll on their physical health.

Whether in a hospital, facility, or a client's home, the tasks and challenges for caregivers are very similar and often exactly the same, and the danger of back injury while doing these tasks is real!

This is where the use of proper body mechanics becomes crucial in preventing injuries, such as back strain and spine damages. There are many aspects to using proper body mechanics to help protect yourself from injury, but here are the most important that caregivers must always practice, regardless of the task:

1. Do a quick mental analysis of the task before you. Are you lifting a patient and transferring them to a chair? What should be done first? Where is the safest place to stand?

2. As you picture the task in your mind, do some arm and leg stretches and warm up your muscles.

3. If you are doing the heavy task with a patient, explain the steps of your approach to them. This technique is very useful, not only in keeping both caregiver and patient safe during the movement, but also in giving the patient the chance to help you while moving them.

4. Before lifting or transferring a patient, always keep your feet apart to ensure a wide and secure base of support. This technique helps keep your balance during the task.

5. Bend your knees and not your back. The heaviest force should come from the feet.

6. Stay as close as possible to the person or item to be moved because your body can best support a heavy load this way, with the force of the lift coming from the shoulders and the upper arms instead of just the lower arms.

7. Face your task so that it is directly in front of you. This approach prevents you from twisting or reaching out unnecessarily and hurting your back in the process.

8. Move as one unit so that, as you turn left, the whole body turns left and not just the upper body. This technique prevents twisting movements that can hurt the back or spine. The head and neck must also be kept aligned to prevent injuring your neck and shoulder muscles.

9. Your foot should go in the direction of your movement. This move keeps your knees and calf muscles from harm.

10. Hold on properly to the person or item to be lifted. If you fail to do this, the patient may fall and become injured, or your toes will feel how heavy the falling object really is!

11. When lifting, the force of the movement should come from the muscles of the entire arms and legs. These muscles can handle lifting better than the back muscles.

12. No sudden movements! Jerky movements can rip muscles and even fracture bones, so you must always keep this one rule in mind.

13. No lifting or turning more than you can handle. Be sure to ask for another person’s help if needed.

14. Use tools that will make your work easier. Turning sheets, mechanical or electric lifters, transfer belts, and gait belts will help keep you from injury, so do not hesitate to use them when you need them.

Being a caregiver is a rewarding job, but be careful to not let the work rob you of your own physical safety while on duty. Practicing proper body mechanics at all times is like putting on armor before battle, it protects you from unnecessary injury on the job.

Posted: 5/18/2020 11:50:14 AM

A Healthy Caregiver-Patient Relationship is a Win-Win Situation

Caregiving is a lot of work. Caregivers often feel overwhelmed with loads of tasks, and it’s easy to mistake being this busy with a genuine caregiver-patient relationship.

Ironically, the meaningful interaction in the relationship is lost when all a caregiver has time for is crossing tasks of the to-do list, while forgetting to check in with what the patient thinks and feels. In healthcare, this problem can be all too real when a list of tasks replaces the care in caregiving.

A strong caregiver-patient relationship increases trust. Patients are likely to trust the healthcare team and follow treatment instructions, leading to quality care and positive outcomes. Patients who trust their caregivers also tend to open up about their issues, concerns, and symptoms, which could serve as a gateway to a more thorough examination by the nurse or the physician.

Quality one-on-one time can make a patient feel better, respected, and appreciated, rather than just feeling like a disease to be treated. Genuine conversations also help ease a patient's negative feelings, such as anger, sadness, and anxiety, which makes caregiving all the more significant.

Making positive connections with your patients is truly important, so don't let this effort fall through the cracks.

So now that we know that having positive connections with patients is a must rather than a bonus, what can you do to make this a daily achievement?

1. Decide to make an effort.

Building rapport with the patient does not often happen spontaneously, so unless you are a people person who really loves interacting with others, you have to decide to act first. Go ahead and initiate the conversation!

Look at the patient directly and properly introduce yourself. Smile often. Topics of conversation should not be limited to their symptoms and illness. When the conversation is about the patient and their life outside their health complaints, let the stories flow.

2. Be sincere.

Patients can sense if you are genuinely working for their wellbeing. They can also tell if all you care about is finishing your shift, or if you complete your tasks half-heartedly. They resent that kind of attitude and tend to avoid interacting with you.

If you are having a hard time at work because of a personal or workplace issue, it’s ok to let them know that your day is not going so well but that it’s not their fault. Be sure to remind them you still have their best interests in mind. You might be surprised—they may even cheer you up!

Another way to show sincerity is to listen and react appropriately. If a patient starts telling you about their daughter Mary being sick with flu, be sure to ask them how Mary is doing by name, not just referring to a “daughter.“ This extra effort can really make a difference to your patient!

3. Ask how the patient is feeling, what they are thinking, and what their preferences are.

This is focusing on the patient and their unique qualities, not just their illness and health needs. You can also tell them what you observe about them. You can say, "You seem tired today," or "You’re looking a little down." These words validate what your patient is going through and they can easily connect with you once they feel you are really concerned.

4. Use touch.

Touch is a powerful way to establish a caregiver-patient bond, if it is done with sincere gestures and thoughtful communication. When appropriate, place a hand over the hand or shoulders of an anxious patient, and you will see them feel better instantly.

5. Provide quality care.

While we said that the caregiver-patient relationship is not just about accomplishing daily duties, quality work speaks a thousand words. Make sure you’re doing the right tasks at the right time, get organized, and prioritize, so you can work as efficiently as possible while maintaining the highest quality care.

The essence of making positive connections at work is centered around the patient, who we all want to get better. Let's not forget that building healthy relationships with patients is also about you, the caregiver, finding deeper meaning and purpose in what you do. Positive caregiver-patient relationships reignite your passion for your work, making it a win-win situation from every angle.

Posted: 5/11/2020 11:32:45 AM

Six Great Things About Being a CNA

Being a CNA is not all about hard work. Looking at the bright side, caregiving is also about having wonderful experiences. So, when the going gets tough at work and you feel like dashing out the door and leaving behind your scrubs for good, take a moment to unwind and look at the best this job can offer. Give it time to sink in and you'll realize that being a CNA comes with perks that reward you for life.

Here’s six of our best:

1. You get to be a giver—continually.

This tops our list, as being a CNA is a job that never stops giving. Daily, you take on tasks that most consider unpleasant. You give your time to others, like when you miss your coffee and lunch break just to assist patients. As the saying goes, “The best gift you can give someone is your time.”

2. You touch lives and leave a lasting impact.

You may not realize it, but you do create an impact on a patient's life. How do you know?

Their simple thanks and appreciation say it all. You may hear patients or their family say, "You really were great!" or "I couldn't have done it without you." These are indications that you and your efforts mattered.

3. You learn how to be a part of a team.

Caring for a patient is a team effort even when each member has their own tasks to accomplish. You get to collaborate with people of diverse personalities, beliefs, and cultures. You learn from each other, too!

4. You’ll have a rewarding and practical experience.

Everything you learn as you care for patients and work with colleagues will translate well into life outside work. As a nursing assistant, you become equipped to cope with many types of stresses.

Is a family member sick? You may not be a doctor, but your training and practice taught you a lot. You can better manage on your own and without ending up a nervous wreck. And the people skills you learn will serve you well. You know better than to lose your cool over petty things.

You’re also a great listener, thanks to your favorite resident who never runs out of stories. If you have kids and bring those great communication skills home, you'll definitely earn your badge for exemplary parenting skills!

5. You see your efforts pay off.

Unlike working in the corporate world, where it’s harder to know how well you contribute to successes, being a nursing assistant provides constant opportunities to appreciate the positive results of your hard work and sacrifices. When you see patients improve or feel a bit better amidst sickness and pain, it’s a feeling you won’t forget!

6. You have a great career outlook.

CNA jobs will never become obsolete. In fact, nursing careers are on the rise and the demand will even be higher in the coming years.

The US population is aging, with more baby boomers retiring by the minute. An increase in the number of older people also means an increased need for long-term care, which equates to a variety of employer options for CNAs. You can also choose from many work settings including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health, and skilled nursing facilities.

Also, there are many opportunities for career advancement. You can work toward becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse and there are many programs that support your transition without having to stop working. This paves the way for you to level up your nursing skills and earn a heftier paycheck.

The nursing assistant job is not easy, but if you have what it takes to make a patient's life a lot more comfortable as they go through a difficult time, you are indeed a miracle worker. And this is what makes the job noble. It’s also a good reason to be proud of yourself!

Posted: 5/4/2020 11:14:41 AM

How to Effectively Cope with Patient Death

The emotional toll of a patient’s death on healthcare staff, including nursing assistants, can be devastating—even if it’s expected in the care industry. We try to make meaningful connections at work and do our best for those under our care, so a patient’s passing can shake our resolve, especially when they have touched our life.

The irony is that, while CNAs know how to comfort grieving families, they often find themselves personally at a loss and unable to deal with the experience. They may break down, fall into depression, or think of quitting their job altogether.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are ways to cope:

1. Redirect your care from the patient to their family.

The patient’s family mourns their loss and you feel their pain, too. The best way to regain control of your emotions is to continue to provide support to the patient's loved ones.

2. Prepare yourself mentally.

You won’t know the exact day or hour of someone’s death, but you can be prepared mentally by understanding that death happens to each of us. It’s a cold truth, but in accepting its nature, you will better know how to manage your emotions.

Prepare to feel sympathy rather than empathy. Sympathy is understanding the grief or suffering of another, while empathy is sharing those feelings. When possible, CNAs need to be more sympathetic than empathetic so they can continue to effectively care for others.

3. Talk it out with your colleagues.

You will eventually have your first encounter with patient death and the sadness may stay with you for a long time. Turn to your coworkers and managers, who understand what you are going through and are willing to offer support.

Also, the patient's death may have affected others as well, and being there for each other during these low times can lift team spirit. You can also reach out to your family and friends.

4. Give yourself time to let it sink in.

Whether it’s a five-minute break or half your lunch break, take some time to breathe. Quiet time to think, process, or take a short walk can help you regain composure and focus on your tasks.

5. Do meditation after your shift.

You may be grieving yourself. It’s perfectly okay to feel this way. To find relief, meditate on the impact the patient had on your life as well as the difference you made in theirs. These are valuable lessons that stay with you for life and make you appreciate your job as a nursing assistant even more.

Don't wait around hoping to get used to losing a patient. That may never come, especially if you are the compassionate type. What can happen is that, over years of encountering patient death, you become more accepting of how finite human life is.

6. If the pain becomes too much and affects your care for others, don't hesitate to seek professional counseling.

Losing a patient can shatter you. If you’re having trouble, go to a therapist or counselor. They can help you process your grief and deal with the experience.

It is important for CNAs to cope effectively with the loss of a patient—not only for themselves, but because they have to keep it together and continue caregiving for others. Coping with a patient’s death is an unfortunate and inevitable journey, but you will learn important lessons along the way.

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