Assistant Nurse. Or, Assistant TO the Nurse.

STNA Classes. Are. Amazing.

 For the last 4 days, I’ve hustled down 161 to get to class by 5.

 You’d think that five hours of class would be mind-numbing and terrible, but it’s not. We have an incredible instructor who provides real-life anecdotes that they don’t share with you in the state-provided Powerpoint presentation.


 The whole time I’m there, I can’t help but think that Mae Klingler would really enjoy the way this woman tells stories. And not just because her best ones involve throwing poop.

Her name is Carol, and she graduated from high school in 1976. Since then, she’s served 8 years as a nurse’s aide, 5 years and an LPN and the rest as an RN. She’s worked in every type of health facility imaginable, from long-term-care psyche wards to hospitals to nursing homes to … well … she’s washed EVERYONE’s ass at least once.

I have been trying to keep a running list of her stories. I am going to set up my phone so that I can live-tweet Carol’s anecdotes every night. We decided last night that we are going to write a book together. I think we’ll call it: A girlfriend’s guide to nursing.

I have really got to get some of these book written. They are starting to back up.

Anyway, the brilliant thing about Carol is that she’ll take a bullshit bullet point like “Demonstrate sensitivity and respect for the needs of others,” and turn it into a real life lesson like this:

“Think about the words you’re using. Once, I walked in to a patient’s room and told him to hop up because it was time to take a shower. He looked at me funny, and when I pulled back the covers, I saw that he had no legs. Don’t say ‘Time to hop up’ to an amputee.”

This is a very mild Carol anecdote.

Other good advice she’s given me?

= Death

= Death

“If they’re serving rice with chicken, someone is going to die.”

Apparently, the combination of rice and chicken is often deadly for old people. Something about the size and texture of the meal frequently leads to choking.

“Remember that if a snake ain’t cut in half, it ain’t dead.”

Once, a copperhead bit a patient who was out in the courtyard. The snake was killed, or so they thought, and put in a plastic bag and brought into the nursing home for inspection. The snake, as Carol discovered, was not dead, and escaped. Hilarity ensued.

“Don’t ever stick your finger in anybody’s mouth. Period.”

 This one is pretty self-explanatory.

“They’ll eat Styrofoam.”

 Apparently, ice cream is commonly served in styrofoam, and the old people have some difficulty getting the lid off. Rather than calling for help, the old people are so overcome with their desire for the ice cream that they will simply start eating a hole in the cup.

“They aren’t armed with anything, so they’ll use meals as weapons.”

Old people will barter with you, i.e., “I’ll eat these peas if you bring me another soda,” or “I’ll eat this sandwich if you promise I don’t have to take a bath tomorrow. If that doesn’t work, they’ll simply start throwing their food at you.

 Other stories of note:

 Apparently, and I’m not sure when this starts to happen, but you’ll reach a certain age when you will find poop interesting again. Carol told us about one patient who liked to make a “chocolate snowman” out of her poop and place it on the window sill every time it was snowing outside.

 People often hear these stories and ask why in the world I would want a job like this. All I can say is that if I ever walk in and find Eric or Richard making a snowman out of their own feces, well … that won’t be a boring day at work.

One of my favorite stories started with a bullet point that probably said something like, “Give your patient your undivided attention and respect. Treat them with dignity.” I call the story, “Shirley doesn’t like her potatoes today.”

Once there was a nurse’s aide named Catherine. Catherine hated dead bodies. Catherine also was VERY excited about the end of a certain soap opera during her day shift, so minutes after she sat her patient Shirley up in the bed and put her tray in front of her, she turned on Shirley’s TV and began to watch as she fed her a meal. Carol walked in, noticed something strange, and said, “Shirley doesn’t seem to like her potatoes today.”

 That is because Shirley was dead, and her soap-opera-induced caregiver had been stuffing her mouth full of potatoes the entire time. Apparently, Shirley had been dead for several hours before she had been begun her meal, but Catherine had not been playing close attention.

 Catherine freaked out and started screaming, but Carol had some level-headed advice: Better get those potatoes out of her mouth or before they find out you’ve been feeding a dead woman.”

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  • Shelby

    Wait. Is this a class about ageism?

    You need to hurry and get out there so these seniors can get some good care! Glad those 5 hours are keeping you engaged. :)

  • Monsterbeard

    Thank god for the american healthcare system!

    hang on, are you saying everyone has lost interest in their poop? Is there something wrong with me?