Posted January 5, 2013on:
In 1989, I started nursing school at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO. While in school, I worked part-time for the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) as a Certified Home Health Aide, licensed by the State of Colorado. I wrote this essay in 1990 and it won first prize at a contest sponsored by the VNA:
I am writing this while my client with terminal pancreatic cancer is sleeping. She is an admirable lady who knows that she is dying and needs to talk about it. I am there to listen, to empathize; to assist her in doing what she is too weak to do for herself, such as taking a shower and changing her bed.
She in turn has given me a great deal; by her confronting her death, she has helped me to confront my eventual demise. I think about how she is dealing with her death with how the AIDS patient I took care of last summer dealt with his. He remained optimistic and cheery until he went into the hospital for the last time.
Working with the terminally ill is only part of the job description of a caregiver. I remember the two and one-half year old boy I took care of last year. It was a true joy to related to such an intelligent, articulate little person. I remember the lady with the broken back; I remember washing her hair over the edge of her water-bed. The day finally came when she recovered enough so that she no longer required my services. I remember the young lady who is a quadriplegic. She always has a big smile for me when I go to help her into bed in the evening.
Caregiving means more than just bed baths and back rubs; more than meal preparation and grocery shopping; more than changing bed linen and doing laundry. Caregiving means caring for the client as a whole person. It means listening to his/her life story and sharing my life with him/her when appropriate. It is the sharing of one life with another that draws all people closer together and makes us all human.
I enjoy the people contact of caregiving; I enjoy the self-sufficient aspect of creative problem-solving; I enjoy the support that I have always found from my supervisor when I have found myself in situations where I felt that it was necessary to call an ambulance for the clients. One of these times was when I arrived at my client’s home to find that she had fallen and had been unable to get up for an hour. Another time was when I witnessed my AIDS patient having a mini-stroke and he wanted to go to the hospital.
I find that the more different people I come in contact with, the more people are alike in their fears, desires, needs and wants. I have gained a great deal from my clients; I see how adversity makes people strong if they choose to let it.
I like working as a caregiver and feeling needed. I like knowing that caregivers like me are what is keeping some of my clients out of nursing homes, that without home health care, many clients would no longer be able to live independently at home and would end up in either hospitals or nursing homes. I enjoy my job and am looking forward to the next stage in my life, that of being a nurse.