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A salute to CNAs

I've been so busy lately that I almost had to check my drivers license the other day to find my address. 
Well, that is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. 
I’m currently taking two prerequisite classes, and on Jan. 10, 2017, I begin my first nursing class. I’m also working at the hospital on weekends and working on the Algona Upper Des Moines’ 150th anniversary special section, which will come out the end of December. 
I’ll be taking a nearly full-time load of classes, but I’m so excited to get started in the nuts and bolts of nursing that I already ordered my scrubs needed for clinicals. The only part that has set me back on my heels a bit is the cost of books. 
Holy wow — $175 for a certified nursing assistant book. No. I didn’t buy it. I’m too cheap. I borrowed from a friend who took the class a year or so ago. 
The nursing program I chose starts clinicals in the very first semester. I love patient care and I love to learn by doing — which is the main reason I chose the program I did. It will allow me to live in Algona, attend classes two days a week, clinicals one day a week and the rest of my classes will be online for the first semester. 
However, because clinicals start right away, one of the prerequisites for the program is to be a Certified Nursing Assistant so that you know the basics of caring for people in a medical environment. 
I know a lot of CNAs, and I’ve always known what wonderful, caring people they are.  When my mother was dying in Pueblo, Colo., and I was fighting tooth and nail with her physicians to get her adequate pain medication, it was the CNAs who kept my mom clean, turned her every two hours to keep her from getting pressure sores and cared for my sister and my emotional needs as well as our mom’s physical needs. 
They would always take the time to ask how Erin and I were doing, and always took the time to listen if we needed to vent. 
I remember falling asleep in one of those horrible not-really-a-recliner chairs. I was cold, but mom’s room had to be kept cold because of the fever raging through her body. When I woke up, I was covered in two blankets and a pillow had been tucked under my head without waking me up. 
I’m one of two people in my CNA class taking it as a prerequisite for nursing. The rest are people already working in care facilities and they want to spend their working hours doing the thankless grunt work of patient care. 
There isn’t a one in that classroom that doesn’t have a passion for helping people. They understand that being able to make a bed with someone in it — and make it smooth and comfortable — is a primary skill, and they are patient with me as we practice again and again until the mitered corners are military tight. The next skill I need to master is how to bath someone who cannot get out of bed. Again — so very important, yet no one really thinks about how much goes into doing this correctly. Done incorrectly, a bed bath can cause injuries and discomfort. 
This is a 75-hour class, plus a state written test and a state skills test, just to be able to work with patients without supervision. The total cost, not including that ridiculous book, is nearly $400, plus testing fees, for a non-credit class. My class needs to be credit, so I’m at nearly $800. 
I realize that their employers are paying for the class and testing fees — what strikes me is how much these students absolutely love what they do. 
Yesterday, one of the women came into class really subdued. She’s normally bubbly and upbeat, just a hoot to be around, so I asked if anything was wrong. 
One of her clients had passed suddenly, and she had not been able to say good-bye to him or his family. She told me he was one of her favorites. 
I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but laugh. I pointed out that every client she had was “one of her favorites.”
That cheered her up and she laughed. “Too true.”
Too true. 
Next time you are at an extended care facility or hospital, pay attention to the CNAs. They are the ones checking call lights, walking with patients, running errands — in some facilities they may have as many as 10 patients they work with, helping with meals and toileting and dressing. 
They could make more money working at a factory, but they’ve chosen to care for the most frail of our population — the sick, injured and elderly. I admire them, and realize that requiring incoming nurses know what their assistants need to know will make us better nurses. I hope I never forget how passionate these people are about their patients. 
I’m a bit late on this. National Certified Nursing Assistant week is in June. Don’t wait until June to thank a CNA. They deserve it year-round.

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