Archive for December, 2015

When I was a teenager, my great-grandmother began to succumb to the effects of, most likely, vascular dementia. She could no longer be left alone or care for herself. No one in our family, although try as they may, could deal with her care, especially the incontinence. She was always a strong, wise, opinionated woman, with a raw, “in your face” sense of humor. To watch that slowly fade away was heartbreaking for our entire family.

It was during this period of time when I realized my path and my career choice. I wanted to be a nurse in long term care and care for the elderly. I started out applying for dietary positions in area nursing homes because I only had food service experience at that time. One day, a receptionist in a nursing home at which I was applying suggested I apply for a position as a nursing assistant. Of course, I had no formal training, but back in the late 1980’s, things were different than they are today. Now you have to attend classes to be a Certified Nursing Assistant, back then, 6 weeks on the job training and then take the written test for your certification in the state of New Jersey.

I remember my very first day as a nursing assistant in training. It was not exactly like I imagined it to be. No old folks playing checkers and bingo in their rocking chairs. These were very ill people who couldn’t speak, walk, eat, or use the bathroom. I went home that day and cried to my mother. I told her I just couldn’t do it. Entirely too sad for me. But Mom said, “You’re so good with Granny, go back and give it a chance.” So I did, and 3 years later, I became a licensed practical nurse, encouraged by another nursing assistant who was becoming a nurse as well. I attended nursing school while still working full time as a nursing assistant, and graduated 3rd in my class. Now I’ve been an LPN in long term care, sub-acute rehabilitation, dementia care, and transitional care for 26 years.

My journey has not been an easy one. I have been told I am a free spirit who puts their patients and families first. I am a bit quirky and unconventional at times. Different from most nurses I would say, but after hopping from job to job for the majority of my nursing career, nursing has not been so good to me. I shouldn’t say nursing itself. I LOVE being a nurse. I love the simplicity of a smile or a thank you from a patient or family member as my reward. Every facility I ever worked in for long periods of time, I was always well-liked by mostly everyone, especially patients and families. Administration, however, their scrutiny became beyond belief at times where i was concerned. My clinical skills as a nurse were never in question, but I would be disciplined for stupid things like, cursing, smoking, gossiping, and once for saying the onions they were serving for lunch smelled old and stale, like an armpit. Never anything nursing related. Then, in 2006, one of the nursing directors I worked with, who had beef with me for some reason, and referred to me to my face once, as I was staying for a double shift to help her out with staffing, as a “fuck up”, turned me in to the board of nursing. Not for a life threatening medication error, not for diverting narcotics, but for taking a picture of a resident on my very first ever camera phone and texting it to one of my co-workers because we thought the little lady was “cute”. It didn’t become an issue until a year later. I realize now that this nursing director reported my to the board of nursing, not because she gave a shit about the resident, because I stood up for myself when she asked me to resign from my 3-11 supervisor position because I was “depressed”. I reported that to the corporate human resources department, citing the American’s with Disabilities Act. Depression is a disability. I suppose it pissed her off and she reported me to the board.

Although I have gotten jobs since the disciplinary action, mostly through friends who are nurse managers, the rules and policies of facilities are constantly changing. Today, when a facility does your background check and runs your nursing license, the “tag” shows up and they won’t hire you. Convicted felons can get jobs but i can’t. What’s wrong with this picture? I’ve been punished quite enough for this “tag” on my license. $2,500.00 fine and three out of pocket classes on ethics, boundaries, and abuse. Who knew a simple diversional activity for a demented, agitated patient who was a fall risk would turn into such an ordeal! Now, in retrospect, I remember meeting with investigators from the Office of the Attorney general and being scared out of my wits. I should have gotten an attorney for myself but couldn’t afford one at that time. I realize now that the nursing director who reported me was being retaliative because I questioned her authority by calling corporate human resources. I’ve heard from various sources, the nursing community in long term care is rather small in South Jersey, that the nursing director who asked me to resign no longer practices nursing for “mental health” reasons. I think her credibility should be questioned. Recently, I wrote to the board of nursing requesting the disciplinary action be expunged from my permanent record because I can’t find employment in the profession that i love so much. A potential employer sees a “tag” on your license, no matter how good you are at what you do, or how many glowing letters of recommendation you may present, they are going to judge you based on that disciplinary action, no matter how petty. Basically, that nursing director who reported me to the nursing board has “blacklisted” me, preventing me from being gainfully employed in a career for which I was apparently destined. It all began with helping my family to care for my great-grandmother. R.I.P. Johanna Rach 1898-1988. You were my inspiration…