Caring on Stolen Time: A Nursing Home Diary

Source: JOMO, Dissent, Winter 2013

… Over time, I would also learn that reporting the health hazards, safety violations, and broken equipment to the overworked staff nurses or the arrogant charge nurses was useless. Only when someone got injured would it matter. Unless the state inspectors were conducting their annual visit, no one updated the care plans, gave us crucial information about new residents, thought it important to train us in health precautions, or bothered to fix faulty wheelchairs in a timely manner.

We had to push hard, ask relentlessly, and document, document, document our attempts, so that when some avoidable accident did happen, we would not be blamed. Too many times, we had to strain our backs and arms to compensate for lack of equipment and training. …

… By the end of the week, all twenty-five of the dayshift CNAs had signed a petition against the new staffing ratio. We calculated that the new plan would leave us with a mere twenty-five to thirty minutes of care for each resident per eight-hour shift. We were determined to make the case that it was neither safe for us nor the residents for us to be so rushed on the job.

When eight of us marched down the shiny bright hallway, into the boss’s office, the few short steps marked a longer journey. For the first time, we were going to speak up collectively. We were all nervous. We did not know how this would go down.

Our answer came the next day, when the director of the nursing home called us all to a huge meeting.

“If you form unions, we will have no choice but to fire all of you.”

End of meeting….