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Residents, nurses and too little time

March 31, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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When I moved to a nursing home 19 years ago, I was 47, out of my element and lonely. Some nurses observed me sitting in my power chair trying to feel involved with the community and asked me to accompany them on their med pass. Many of these nurses could carry on a meaningful conversation without being concerned about becoming confused or making a medication error.

This engagement allowed me to meet and talk with people closer to my age. The facility had more than 90 residents in their 80s and 90s. Many had some dementia, which made having a conversation difficult. Others liked to chat, but depression or their health issues caused them to tire quickly.

As the years progressed, I noticed that the nurses spent less meaningful time with us. They complained about increasing paperwork, and some stayed over a couple of hours to complete their charting.

I know Medicare, Medicaid and the state and federal governments want nurses to document the care provided for each resident. Regulations require that supporting documentation be placed in residents' charts.

I wish that regulations could be followed and the paperwork designed to be less time-consuming. I believe that the exhaustive documentation interferes with the nurses' ability to care for and get to know their residents.

At times, dayshift nurses are besieged during morning med pass. It seems that residents, coworkers and, often, management want to talk with them all at the same time. Since I have seen this happen for so long, I avoid talking to my nurse during med pass. Instead, when I have a question or concern, I ask my nurse when she/he would have time for me.

A few weeks ago, a dayshift nurse was sitting with a female resident in the lobby after breakfast. Since I hardly ever see that, I said, "I am so glad to see you spending time with her. You are usually too busy to do that."

The nurse said the woman needed some TLC and she enjoyed talking to her while giving her legs a break. Then she quickly popped up and hurried to her med cart. She said she did not want to get in trouble. I think it is unfortunate that a nurse is afraid she will get in trouble for doing something positive for a resident.

All in all, I wish the nurses had more time to spend with us when we really need them. Aides have little enough time for direct care, hurrying off to see to the needs of the next resident. In my opinion, interaction with nurses and aides is healing in itself. When nurses and aides leave abruptly when there is no emergency, I feel like I do when cell phone call is dropped—disappointed.

In the future, maybe the focus will shift away from the required paperwork and the bottom line so that residents can have better life and nurses a better work experience.



Valuable insight about what should be our number one priority.

Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...