I have been a nurse for 13 years. Started in New York state and moved to Georgia about 6 years ago. I have seen a lot.
My nursing home COVID story
You hear a lot on the news and social media and from friends and family their view on COVID. I am sure they all differ in one way or another. I work at a smaller hospital in a rule community.
Recently with COVID us health care workers have had our hands and hearts full. There is nothing more hunting then watching someone struggle to breath and not having the right equipment to help them but cause all of your vents are in use or what you are doing just isn't working. The story I am about to tell you happened before I started at the hospital. I am sharing with you because I think it is important to open some eyes.
The first strand I worked through was devastating, most of our generation had never seen anything like this. I was actually in a nursing home as management but still had my nursing license. Our facility was COVID free at this time and doing well.
One of our sister nursing homes got hit really hard and all but 3 of their staff was out with COVID and over half of their residents were either in the hospital or back and being treated for COVID. So our owners offered/asked to see if any of us would go help the facility out for 2 weeks. They would put us up in a hotel and pay for it. They also offered a bonus of $1200. Needing the money for an upcoming surgery we were for-seeing I accepted the offer and was on my way the next day. I wasn't even given time to get some one to cover my position at the current nursing home. Management said that someone would handle it from another home. I did admissions and I think at this time the other nursing home's needs were more critical.
I arrived at the hotel and checked in. Then went to the nursing home to get a feel for what was going on and see where I was needed. when I arrived it was a sight. the people who lived across the street were out side taking photos and obviously talking about the home. I ignored them and walked to the front where there were several plastic garbage bins that were overflowing of gowns and goggles and shields waiting to be picked up, sanitized and returned so we could REUSE them.
I rang the bell for someone to let me in and a staff member came to let me in I had to don a KN95, a gown and take my temp. After that I was walked to the office where the cooperate manager for the area was. She explained to me that I would be doing COVID assessments and helping in areas that were needed. She then asked if I could start now. well good thing I came dressed to work because I wasn't scheduled to work till the next day. I jumped in anyway.
I worked as house keeping, maintenance, CNA, social work, cart nurse, assessment nurse and much more... hell we did it all. We didn't have enough KN95 masks so they told us to alternate 2 masks and put them in our windshield in the sunlight and heat to be disinfected. Does this sound a little wonky to you? It did me, but hey I needed the equipment in order to work. I picked up some disinfectant spray and sprayed my self from head to toe every day before I got into my car.
Every day was a challenge; sending and receiving residents to and from the hospitals. New meds we had no education on trying to heal our residents. They sent us help from the government... like 3 nurses... who wore gas mask, scaring our residents and some of our staff. I mean if they were given such nice masks why couldn't we have them too? was this more deadly then they were letting on? no one had answers.
We also had our hands full dealing with family who would treat you like crap because it was our faults that their loved ones got COVID, or they would be upset they couldn't visit or have time to face time with them so they could see their loved ones. Residents were dying alone, staff was falling apart inside but we kept pushing the best we could. When a resident died it weighted on us all because we all worked so hard to keep them alive, to get them to where they were, we cried together.
When I came to this facility it was clear they had issues with staffing before COVID; residents had wounds that well didn't develop over a few days, toe nails that were curling under and other conditions that were of concern. being of management position I had to help report all this so after working on the floor I had tasks to do after. I was appalled by some of their conditions.
I worked all day every day for 2 and a half weeks. Now, they paid us hourly so that was nice but the government took most of it in taxes. What little extra we did get didn't make up for the time we lost with our friends and families, the cussing outs we got from; the resident's families, from the residents because they weren't allowed to do something or had to have a mask on or limited smoke breaks because we had to split up the 20 residents that were smoking into 5-6 each time in order to socially distance them safety and much more. non of this made up for the abuse we put on our bodies and when we got sick do you think the company gave us paid time off? Hell no. I was lucky enough to not get sick but I happen to have a really strong immune system and hardly ever get sick.
At the end of my 2.5 weeks there (which was longer then my contracted time and not by my choice staff just kept getting sick and I was needed longer so I stayed. No incentive offered) we had lost to COVID over half of the residents and 5 staff members died from it.
I returned home to my family and had to quarantine another 2 weeks unpaid so I had to use my PTO. Which also meant my post went 'unmanned' for 4.5 weeks. Now my job was one that I could do some of it from home but I also did face to face with families for admissions and that would be problematic. However they never got anyone to cover my job and the staff I left (business office manager and social worker) were forced to to my job on top of theirs without proper training or any extra pay. Management didn't seem to care.
Now here is a picture for you:
-residents were not getting to the bathroom, turned or wound care on a regular basis because we didn't have the staff to do it all. we barley got by daily COVID assessments and behavior tracking as they had a behavioral wing.
-they made us take the facility and block off one side and put COVID residents there and then the wing that was for behaviors held all non COVID resident regardless if there were behavioral or not. Residents that were originally in need of the "locked" unit were moved to the unlocked side when they got sick. The front door was locked but if you lean on it long enough the emergency feature unlocks and lets the door open. So on top of all we are doing for our residents that were struggling to breath and live we also risked residents getting out, being violent towards other residents and all staff. Residents that were "healthy and non behavioral" and on the non COVID side were subjected to the behaviors of the residents there. These behaviors were such as but not limited to: smearing feces on things, urination in halls and in others rooms, yelling at all hours, cussing, throwing things, hitting others, sexually inappropriate behaviors I wont list and so on.
-now with the nursing home divided into to parts; COVID and NON COVID you would think that would be a positive and help the situation but what I didn't tell you is we had to walk through COVID land to get to NON COVID land. yes you heard me right. Even if I worked COVID in the am we could be sent to non COVID same day or next day because of staffing issues. The rumors about clean nurses and dirty nurses (ones who didn't work with COVID vs the ones who did) was a lie. There were no such things then. (nor is there now)
-lets talk about food. As the rest of the staff was limited so was the kitchen staff. They did their best to make meals for all the residents and the staff members there because they were in a town so small that there was no where to buy lunch, not even a gas station that did pizza or fried foods and return in time to eat. There really wasnt enough staff to really leave and get anything even if there was something close. Living in a hotel we couldn't cook and bring lunch either. We didn't have family members bringing us food or sweets. Meals were often minimal, and late. Food that was easy to cook in large quantities was made over and over again. So yes they ate but many times the ones who could not feed them selves (which was a majority of them due mostly to COVID and weakness) would eat cold or warmed up food because we would spend time passing trays, setting up their plates and then we would feed residents that needed help. Now while we are feeding, the ones who could feed them selves were done and wanting help to the bathroom, seconds, wanting pain meds or to go out and smoke etc.
-Now picture all the nursing staff doing what ever you could to get things done. That means doing things that are not normally your job. Now also picture the kitchen staff coming in and doing minimal work and leaving when their job was done. Not one of them offered to help pass trays or set up trays. They could not feed residents because you have to be trained to do so but they could help with the other 2 things but didn't. When asked there was an uproar. Being so short staffed they knew that they wouldn't be fired, at least not at that time so they did what they wanted. (they were fired once things started leveling out I was told)
I returned to my job after quarantine and there was a mound of work to do. i was salary there so of course i didn't get paid over time. when i left they told me it would be taken care of little did i know that meant by 2 of my co-workers that were not compensated for the extra work and who did not have the proper training. So I had my work cut out for me fixing and finishing things they missed and didn't know. But i was not about to work over 40 hours to make up the work at this point. Which made me fall behind in admission numbers.
With COVID no one really wanted to put their loved ones into a nursing home to begin with, weather or not they were COVID free. So this made admissions hard. On top of that the government has requirements that need to be met for people who have Medicare and Medicaid before they will be covered at a nursing home. Go figure. If they do not meet there requirements they will not pay for their stay at the home. The company began to bully me about admissions (I cried so many times from their crul words), then put COVID testing residents and staff 2 times a week on my plate. If someone didn't show up it was on me to track them down to be tested or they couldn't work. They were expecting too much of one person, but Nursing homes do not care about their workers, they only care about their bottom line. All the money they got from the government for COVID help, we maybe saw 2% of it if we were lucky and we were the ones knee deep in the shit.
A little off topic but please do research on any nursing home or assisted living center before you place your loved ones in them, they will lie to your face just to get your admission. Trust me I know what cooperate wanted me to tell these families....
I am embarrassed to even admit I worked for that company. And I wont name names because they will see it as slander even though it is the truth and come after me. No changes will ever come of this on their end but maybe I can help others.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ashley