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What They Didn't Tell You About Working in a Nursing Home

Updated on January 12, 2017

Not every one is cut out for working in a Nursing Home. But, there are a precious few, who are. Like any other job that is out there, there's just particular bits of information that no one ever thinks to tell you. Simply because compared to every other bit of knowledge you need to know; These things are benign. Every job you will ever have, will have it's own perks and plummets. I find that nursing has it's own particular "roller coaster," ride of advantages and disadvantages. An ever going roller coaster ride, that will never plateau on you. Here are some things I learned while working in a nursing home, that no one ever thought to tell me.


1. Latex Gloves

The first thing I noticed after one of my first few days, is the scent that is left behind on your hands. Being that your hands are in and out of a new pair of gloves, easily, every ten minutes; You don't realize the long lasting stench they can leave behind. It's a rather particular smell. A cross between hand sweat, rubber latex, and powder. Sitting behind the computer, it doesn't sound like much. But trust me it's a rather unsettling thing to smell as you itch your nose after work, even after washing your hands for what seems like the millionth time. You eventually come to terms with the possibility that you are washing the smell into your hands.

2. Wisdom

Another thing you realize quite quickly, is that you will absolutely never be prepared for the heavy wisdom that will be bestowed upon you at 5:13 pm on a Saturday afternoon. You're escorting someone to dinner. Making normal conversation. Getting to know one another. One of the most personal ground shaking moments you will ever have to face, yes even in your well-lived adult life, is that you are definitely still young and naive. You don't know as much as you thought you did. Some of these bits of wisdom that have so kindly been shared with you will force you to take another look at yourself. You'll never forget them. It will change your life forever.

3. Shift Hours

Hour after hour, call light after call light, you will be drained. The Walkie-Talkie is loud. It rings in your head long after you clock out. Long after you clock out you are still wired, and you get slightly panicky after not hearing any call lights being read out through loud speaker. What they don't tell you, is yes, I clocked out for the day 15 minutes a go. While you sit there genuinely thinking I hate my job and don't care for you, you're sorely mistaken. I really do care for each individual, I put myself in their shoes (a concept taught to all of us at a young age,) and I take the elevator back up just to see you and make you smile one last time for the night. Obviously taking care of what you asked for as well.

4. Understanding your Residents.

You will learn to work every floor. Every room. You get to know these people. You learn every small habit that they have been stuck in almost their whole lives. Morning routines, how they eat dinner, what they do before they take a shower, how they get ready for bed. Simply remembering these things, means a lot to them. They always notice, they love it when you remember. Some of the sweetest things ever said to me, were said because of this one small reason. Watch out because they know how to pull on heart strings and make the tears flow as they do this. No one ever told me how easily they can make you cry.

5. Emotionally.

After you having to get to know each resident, you form special bonds. Each bond being different from the other. You learn the job can be easily emotionally draining. What I wasn't told was that YOU WILL have days that when you come home, in the middle of your own ritualistic shower (this is when you notice you're also stuck in your own habits) you will think about someone you care about dearly that wasn't doing so well that day. You cry for them. You cry for you because you care about being able to see and care for them. You learn quite immediately that it's pretty well matched up to being physically draining.

However, don't let that last one fool you. There are just as many days, that as you lie in bed, you will giggle with the joke that John Doe told you. Or that funny thing that Mrs. So&So did today. They can, and will leave you with as many smiles as they do tears.

6. Introductions

You get to know your residents. They tell you many, many things. What you don't realize is how much of it you actually retain. Even down to them telling you about their own families.

You clock in, you start doing your room checks. You walk up to a door, you hear unfamiliar voices. You walk in to find your residents children that he's been telling you about for quite some time. You already know who they are, without them even having said a word to you yet. But you stand there and let them introduce themselves anyway. Cutting them off and explaining to them you already know their name is not polite, apparently.

Yes, I already know your name, where you come from, Your favorite ice cream, that you're always looking to save a penny, your character, and the fact that you're very rude to your father who's money you are living off of. I also know that your sibling visits every other Tuesday, and every Wednesday at 4:34 pm, and happens to be quite a bit more respectful and loving towards him.

7. Getting yelled at

It's not often I have ever gotten yelled at. Each time has always been a bit of a shock. I never hold it against them with the express understanding that every one has bad days. It might not actually be you. Don't take it personally.

But I'd be lying to you if I told you it didn't hurt my feelings. I will be the first to tell you with no shame, that I have absolutely ended up in the bathroom crying. This kind of hurt , REALLY hurts. They will later apologize, in which you will reply with "that even I have bad days a lot, it's totally understandable!"

8. Homesick

After awhile, you will begin to have certain days off. What they don't tell you is that you get homesick from being away from work. Being away from work begins to be more work then being at work itself. All you can think about is going back so you can tell resident 314 about what happened. Or spending time with resident 204. These people become your own family. You care for them in ways you would only care for your own family members.

9. Confessions

What they don't say, is that you will quite often be subjected to confessions. It's in the human nature to confess things when that time comes. "I should have loved her more." "I should have worked less." "I should have shown appreciation for him." It goes deeper then that. You'll never be ready for it. Some of them are beyond the sweetest things you've ever heard. Others, will give you the chills and haunt you for months.

10. A simple hug

No one is ever ready to experience their first resident pass away. I mean you formed such a deep bond with them. You met their families. You became so involved. You...loved them. Loved them like your own family. It's okay to be upset. Sometimes the most helpful thing to yourself, is to console a relative. You want so badly to break down and cry with them. But remain strong. Firmly, yet lovingly even giving a simple hug helps you as much as it does them. I was later told by a residents relative, that it meant so much that I did that. That it was exactly what they needed at exactly that moment.

11. Humor, and dignity

I live by trying to make each resident laugh, at least once through out the day. Always smiling becomes nature.

My personal motto is to make sure that when I clock in and clock out, that every person still has dignity when I leave. I'm not shy to say that yes, when I was assisting a resident with standing up, I did hear flatulence. It's a normal human bodily function right? I took the attitude that no one should feel embarrassment alone. I shortly there-after let a long, loud, fart echo off the walls. small price to pay for dignity, and a half hour of giggling.

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