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On the road to burnout

July 20, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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An aide, who I will call Stacey, has worked here a couple of years. While she was in the facility's aide class, we residents heard she was young, had a nice appearance and a quiet demeanor. Her instructor and management thought she would be a good caring for older adults.

Stacey was assigned the afternoon shift, working with mostly older, more experienced aides. She was very quiet. When the other aides grumbled about the work involved on front hall, she told them she liked it. Stacy did not talk about herself or how she felt about her job.

About a year ago, Stacey seemed to answer my call light every time it came on, even when she was not assigned to me. One afternoon while she was assisting me, a male resident (one of Stacey's) began yelling loudly. It was his shower day and he wanted it as soon as his aide arrived. Because Stacey was not where he thought she should be, he was having a meltdown. Soon after that incident, he was told his shower would be given at 3:15 p.m.

It seemed like Stacey was assigned to the front hall a lot. Aides usually rotate so they do not have the same hall day after day. I wondered if she would get tired of caring for the same residents. But, some new aides prefer getting familiar with the residents' routines. Changing assignments each day can make remembering routines difficult.

After working here for several months, Stacey told me she had no idea this was a behavioral facility. She found out on her first day. I told her I had lived in another facility and that residents there got frustrated at times and could be inappropriate and sometimes violent.  

Stacey wondered why some older aides did not bag dirty laundry and empty trash. I told her in the best of all possible worlds, aides would follow the rules. But I told her I felt it was important for aides to treat residents with respect and do good care.

When Stacey seemed disillusioned with her coworkers, I advised her to do her job and ignore them. I also suggested she speak with the nurse manager about her concerns. I think she believed that answering call lights kept her busy and made her feel effective.

Recently, Stacey has become quieter and easily irritated. She also tends to be rough when she positions me. I have seen other aides display this behavior before here and elsewhere.

I think Stacey is experiencing the beginning of burnout. Most aides learn that they can never quite fill the needs of the residents. In itself that is like hitting a brick wall. Unless an aide can figure out her role, his or her job becomes more difficult. Most aides work because they need to.  Maybe with some time off and rest Stacey can regain her perspective.


Kathleen Mears

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