Sitters/CNA's: Thank you for "doing nothing"

  1. 102

    I have seen, first hand, the horrible things that can come from one slip. I have born witness to the terrible heartache of decisions forced because of untimely injury. Last night, a member of my family was saved from such a fate.

    Two mornings ago I received a distraught phone call from my mother telling me that my dad, who is suffering with end stage COPD, spine compression fractures, and a distinct lack of proper narcotic metabolism, became flighty, picky and squirrelly to such a point that he was assigned a sitter.

    Look, I've been around. I know what can be said about sitters. I know that for every one that understands the amount of sheer effort and work that goes into trying to keep someone in bed, calm and intact, there are several more misguided individuals that think sitting is easy, requires little effort and even less work.

    Obviously those individuals need to meet my dad when he is blitzed out of his brain on Fentanyl and Vicodin. Let's just say that when my family decides to lose it, we don't just misplace our minds, we straight up blast them into orbit never to be seen or heard from again.

    Maybe it's the southern mentality: go big or go home.

    We pride ourselves on hearing the blankets whisper, seeing shadows slip through the walls, and having full out conversations with no one physical. We sing with gossamer birds, swat at oily, ethereal spiders, undress, and boot scoot boogie down the hall, crumpled spine and inability to breathe be damned. We talk back at the television (even though it's off), recite bits of poetry, and try to lick our meatloaf. We load pills in the end of water straws and attempt to "tranq" the "elephants" in our room. And yes, the nurse would just so happen to be the elephant in question. Perhaps wearing grey scrubs in the presence of one no longer operating on this plane of reality was a mistake. Just sayin'.

    But regardless of all the insanity, of the wandering, flitting hands that pluck at skin tears, scrape at desperately needed picc lines, and fidget with the oxygen in his nose, and never, ever rest, he is safe, cared for, and, although gently, patiently re-oriented again and again, he is even kept company in his joyful delusions.

    I went to see him the other night only to walk up to the room to hear him murmuring, "The you hear them?"

    "Yes, sir. I think they are canaries. Let's lay still and see if they come back to sing to you."


    And there he was, staring at the upper corner of the ceiling as if watching a menagerie in the zoo, rapt, still, his hands resting lightly on his bedding. The sitter, Margaret, greeted me and explained everything he had been up to in a hushed whisper.

    After all, we were waiting for the canaries to return.

    And then last night, a half mad, partially naked Humpty Dumpty decided to have a great fall.

    It would seem that someone decided to tap into their inner ninja and attempt to vault the bed rails and make a beeline for the room exit. The gown was apparently trying to rat him out, so it was discarded for the sake of security (thankfully, he didn't manage to totally disrobe).

    Mission impossible music may or not have been involved.

    The sitter only looked away for a second. And you know what? I totally believe her. I've seen my dad move when properly motivated.

    But it is not because of any "blame" issues regarding his escape attempt that she caught my attention. No.

    It is because she was fast behind him, and when his foot caught and his burst of strength gave, she swiftly, skillfully guided him safely to the floor, cushioning his head on the soft toe of her shoe.

    Because of her knowledge, her quick thinking, fast reflexes and sure hands, I am not writing a grieved announcement of my dad's need for a crani or an intermedullary rodding of a femur.

    Because of her, I get to watch him listen to the sweet chatter of the blankets and blow bubbles in his soda.

    And although that may sound like the strangest thing you have ever heard, I could not, ever, be more grateful.

    It may not be much, but thank you.

    Thank you.

    Thank you for giving him the same dedication you would give your own loved one. Thank you for never yelling, never losing your cool. Thank you for laughing with me because crying is not something built into my coping mechanism. Thank you for not laughing at him. Thank you for speaking calmly with my hysterical mother when I could not be reached.

    Above all, thank you for "doing nothing".

    Most sincerely,

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  3. by   dudette10
    I love the way you write. What's more is that I love the appreciation you show every single member of the healthcare team.
  4. by   gummi bear
    Great article. Sitting is very difficult. Especially if the patient is combative, confused, and stooling every 20-30 minutes. I just had one of those patients last night
  5. by   prmenrs
    God Bless you and keep you (and your delightful sense of humor) intact through this difficult passage. You are a gem. And so is your Dad.
  6. by   Benedina
    Very nice indeed.

    And yes, they move fast, don't they?

    A few years ago, I was sitting with one patient, highly articulate, but in a delirious state. It was a challenging shift trying to keep him mentally engaged and emotionally willing to move--or stay put--safely. He mentioned a sport with which I'm not familiar, and I jumped on it. "Oh," says I, naively thinking I was about to buy another 15 minutes of safe conversation, "I've always been curious about that sport. What exactly happens?"

    "Ah!" he said, vaulting over the bedrails. "Well, the pitcher leans way back like this...on one leg...just like this..."

    Full wind up, full pitch, then back to bed.

    Dina, who did not, in fact, expire from anxiety right on the spot
  7. by   ThePrincessBride
    As a former sitter turned nurse's aide, I am very glad to see some appreciation! I know a lot of people think sitters don't do anything, but it is exhausting. I've been kicked, hit, threatened...I've had things thrown at my head, I've been called every horrific name in the book. It isn't easy, and when I worked as a sitter, I had CNAs and nurses alike tell me that they couldn't do my job b/c of how challenging it is.

    Great post, OP.
  8. by   student forever
    I got the knack for tears that passed you by!
  9. by   BSNbeauty
    Great article. I used to be a sitter and it is NOT an easy job. I think a more appropriate title would be : Thank you for EVERYTHING. I'm glad your dad is okay.
  10. by   vamedic4
    That was without a doubt one of the most insightful, honest and grateful posts I've read in a long time. So often in the hospital, and even here on allnurses, people overlook the importance of the sitter's role.

    So glad to hear that your dad suffered no ill effects from this incident.
  11. by   nrsang97
    Well I am glad to hear your dad is ok. I have been a nurse for over 10 years now. I have been thankful for a good sitter. I have had those challenging patients but add in a art line, a vent, a camino bolt, and a central line. I had a supposedly paralyzed on the left side 20 year old flip himself out of bed. But all the mentioned devices remained intact. There was a cop at bedside.
  12. by   Sun0408
    They can move soooo fast can't they?? Last week I had a 90 year old that kept me running back to him all night. I wish we had sitters. That gent was faster than me and I'm known for moving fast lol... No falls thankfully
  13. by   Esme12
    ((HUGS)) It hard to see a parent not themselves and ill.......I'm sending you hugs and prayers and if prayers aren't your thing I'm sending warm positive vibes...((HUGS))
  14. by   blackvans1234
    Hardest thing ive ever done is sit overnight with a patient that is not acting up.