Interviews

Corey Anne Rotella, CNA

Passionate about Working in Long Term Care!

Recently, we spoke with Corey Anne Rotella about the passion she feels for her job as a CNA.  She revealed her candid thoughts about working in long term care and we are happy to share them with you here:

How long have you been a CNA?                                        

I have been a caregiver since 2008 and I got my CNA certification in February of 2012.

Why did you decide that nursing was the career for you?                   

There is a story behind that, but the most concise and honest answer is that I have a fundamental need for purpose and I believe that long term care has a desperate need for caregivers who see the job for what it really is. We are the frontline of protection for those who cannot protect themselves.  We spend the most time with our residents on a one to one basis. We care for them when they are at their most vulnerable.

There is a level of trust and respect that needs to be nurtured between the caregiver and the person for whom we are caring. As CNAs, it is our responsibility to both earn that and convince the medical field at large to listen to what we have to say about the people for whom we care. When we notice changes in behavior or diet or if their moods are "off", it is often dismissed. At least in my experience. This needs to change and that is no small feat but it is a challenge to which I am very committed.

What was it like starting out as a caregiver?    

Well, I am someone who learns by doing.  While orienting as a caregiver, I shadowed a seasoned CNA.   On our second day together, I asked if she minded if I just jumped in.  I loved that she said yes and, because I didn't shy away from the work and genuinely wanted to help, she took me under her wing.  I honestly believe it was her guidance and training that enabled me to pass the certification test a few years later.

Did you attend a CNA training class?

Actually, between on the job training, inservices and extensive studying, I was able to successfully test out of the class.

How was the CNA certification test?  What can you tell us about that experience?

Oh boy, I was terrified!  I had worked in the field for some time and studied hard, but that did nothing to quiet the nerves—mostly about the skills testing. I was fairly certain that I would accidentally break the hospital bed or trip over the nurse monitoring the test or break the stethoscope while doing vitals. Thankfully, none of those things happened and, after taking a deep breath, I calmed down. I passed just fine with no injuries to myself or others!

There are many different healthcare settings that employ nursing assistants.  What sort of setting do you like to work in and why?

I love working in an assisted living facility. The pace keeps me on my toes!  I have a great passion for helping those living on the memory care unit as well.  I volunteer at a behavioral health facility in a different capacity and sometimes think it would be interesting to work there as a CNA, but I am dedicated to my current residents.  I have the utmost respect for those who do home health care, but I don't think it would be the right fit for me.

What is the best part of your job?  What would you change about your job if you could?

I love my residents! I see them as individuals, each with a fascinating life story.  It’s important to me to show them every day that they still matter.  I love having the ability to positively impact the quality of life for another human being.  For example, it’s not easy to convince someone who has given up that life is worth living and that staying in bed all day is not a healthy option. It takes patience and consistency and, at times, I want to bang my head against the wall. But the sense of joy and accomplishment that comes from FINALLY getting a person to engage, step by slow step, is priceless.

What would I change? The pay. Let's be honest here, it's terrible and raises where I work are nonexistent. To do this job well, the work ethic has to come from within.  I wish my workplace offered  incentives for a good work record but the only “reward” is that you don’t get fired.  In addition, we need to improve communication between management and the clinical staff.  Poor communication causes more trouble than anything else.  It is so much easier to prevent issues from arising than it is to clean them up after the fact but that requires good communication from the top down.

How about the nursing team at work? Do you all get along?

I work with people from a diverse variety of backgrounds, skill sets and ages. I LOVE this about my job. It's like a quilt.  All of our individual histories and experiences are sewn together by the common goal of caring for our people.  That's how I view it. There are times, though that some of the thread is worn thin or broken. Some workers lose heart and some are not cut out for the job. Let's face it, long term care is difficult and it's not for everyone.  Right now, we have a good crew on first shift!

Do you plan to work as a nursing assistant for some time or are you thinking of advancing your health care career?                                  

I plan to continue working as a caregiver full time, while writing. For me, writing is like breathing. It's a part of who I am and it's something I've always done.  My dream is to write a bestselling book and use the proceeds to open my own long term care facility! In my facility, I would be actively engaged with my staff and residents.  My crew would know that they are respected and valued. I would also like to further my education, though I am torn between social work and nursing as I feel both are vital in the field.  It's a big dream, but it feels right and I mean to make a go of it.                                      

Do you feel respected when you tell people you are a nursing assistant?  Do you feel that the average American understands the role of a CNA?  If not, how would you describe your job to them?

Honestly? I respect what I do. I value what I do and I take pride in it.  It doesn't matter to me what other people think.  Having said that, I’m not sure the average American thinks about long term care in any way, unless they have a loved one in a facility. That's a shame and a danger really, because the baby boomer generation will be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years. That's somewhere around 76 million people and there is going to be a big population bulge in these facilities. We are going to need quality CNAs.

Many people do have the wrong idea about nursing assistants. We do not just "wipe bottoms."  We are not just "the help," though both of those things are part of our job duties. Ideally, I would like to see the public become better informed and more engaged when it comes to the elderly and those who care for them.

What would you say to people who are interested in becoming a nursing assistant?

Being a CNA is not a job for the faint of heart or the delicate of stomach and no one ever got rich in this field. It's not an easy gig but if you're looking for a worthwhile job, one with meaning and challenges that will teach you about life and yourself, if you are open to learning, not just from the books but from the people and the experience itself, then this just might be the job for you. It was for me. Every night when I lay my head down to sleep, I have the privilege of knowing that I did a little good for someone in this world and that does a world of good for me.

 

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