Fighting Stress With Humor
Every CNA has silently or mentally quoted this line at some point, and then chuckled to themselves before continuing on with their day. And if you haven’t, don’t worry … you will
“Hey Charge Nurse! Your resident wants a pain pill, and your CNA wants a Vodka Morphine Latte to go.”
So I was orienting a brand spanking new (fresh out of class, not even certified yet) NA yesterday, when one of my coworkers stalked past us on her way to the Charge Nurse. She was gripping her hair in her hands and her eye was twitching–never a good sign. It would seem that her resident, Mr. Bruce Banner, had gone Hulk Smash! upon learning that he would have to wait another 4 hours for a pain pill. Because … you know … he had literally JUST gotten one.
When telling the nurse this, the nurse asked if my coworker had any ideas or suggestions for alternate care that might help ease his discomfort. My coworker then quipped, “Pillow Therapy.” They both laughed. Then they sighed. Then they put together a plan to try repositioning him (again) with the hopes that he would comply and it would help take the pressure off his back. Because being green and large can cause back problems.
Outside the resident’s door, my coworker paused and took a breath, before knocking and entering with a sincere smile.
When the door shut, I was left explaining what had just happened to my newbie; what pillow therapy was; and “For fucks sake, of course they weren’t being serious! There’s a HUGE difference between venting stress humorously, and acting on it physically … What’s wrong with you?”
But how can we joke like that? Well …
We CNA’s know better than anyone else how underpaid, over worked, emotionally charged, mentally stressful, physically taxing, and under appreciated our jobs are. At any given time, on any given shift, we can likely be found engaging (sometimes unwillingly) in tasks such as:
~ Getting puked on, pee’d on, or shit on.
~ Getting cold-cocked by a five foot, ninety pound patient with dementia.
~ Racing down the hall to an alarm or code.
~ Being screamed at by visiting family.
~ Being screamed at by residents.
~ Consoling patients who’s family don’t show up during visiting hours (for the 3rd week in a row).
~ Racing against time and transport to get a combative resident dressed and ready for an appointment.
~ Answering the same call bell for the 25th time in 20 minutes. Did I mention they were just made independent in their room?
~ Following a pissed off dementia’d eloper out the door at 2 am while trying to convince them to go back to the facility. It’s not working. And now they are screaming at the top of their lungs that you’re trying to kidnap them,
~ Playing ‘I’m Never Going To Get My Rounds Done’ with a Fall Risk patient, because they keep setting off their tab/motion alarm by trying to crawl out of their wheelchair or bed.
~ Transferring a resident to the bathroom, bed side commode, or getting them a bed pan … again …
~ Showering the impromptu food fight off a resident who hates showers.
The list of things we do and go through is endless; the above list merely scratching the surface. And guess what? We’re human. We get frustrated. We want to pull out our hair. We want to scream, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” at the resident who says she doesn’t understand why she’s peeing so much tonight, while at the same time asking for her 5th cup of ice water in 45 minutes.
But we don’t. We don’t show any of this inner turmoil and frustration. Instead, we smile–SMILE!–and say “Sure, no problem.” And we mean it. We help them with what they want, over and over again … even when it’s the same thing, over and over again. And then we ask them if there is anything else they need, knowing that it won’t matter what they say because they’re going to put their call light on before we’ve made it down the hall anyway.
Stress. Stress everywhere!
Sure, we have those amazing coworkers that will often times step in so that we can step away; take a break, smoke a cigarette, unscrew our heads, summon el diablo (hey we all have our own relaxation vices). But the fact remains that when we come back, that patient is still there. And so the best source of stress release is finding the humor where we can, when we can.
And guess what? It doesn’t mean we hate our jobs. And it doesn’t mean we hate our patients, either. Far from it. What it really is, is a brain reboot. This is us laughing at the situation. It’s us using humor to vent our frustration. It’s winning back our sanity. It’s giving the full moon the bird.
So the next time you’re venting frustration or releasing stress through humor, remember you’re not alone. But also remember that not everyone understands our brand of humor.
[Writer’s Note: I do not actually recommend giving a full moon the bird. The full moon is a vengeful bitch who takes no prisoners during that one night of absolute hell, and it does not like to be antagonized. Having worked NOC shift for several years, I can say with all honesty … You will lose!]