• Kathleen Burns

Clinician Spotlight: Latonya, GNA

Latonya has always been a caregiver at heart — and she's really good at it. Read on to learn Latonya's #1 tip for per diem nurses.

Being a caregiver has always been part of who Latonya is. From babysitting to taking care of aging family members, Latonya has always loved taking care of others. Throughout the years she’s tried a variety of other jobs, but nothing stuck. It always felt like something was missing, like there was more she could do.

Everything changed when Latonya learned that she could turn caregiving into a career. “When I learned that I could go to school to get a certificate to become a caregiver and then start earning money for it, that was exciting because taking care of people made me feel more fulfilled.”

Latonya earned her GNA certification in 2018 and that was her first official introduction into the healthcare field. “It was an overwhelming and exciting experience [...] but it was knowing that I could make a change in someone’s life that was really rewarding for me.”

Quickly Latonya learned that not all patients would be open to her care. Working in long term care, it can be challenging to help residents who have recently lost their physical independence. They are often resistant to care because they don’t know you or are used to being able to do things like eating and getting dressed on their own. When faced with resistance from a resident, Latonya recommends establishing a foundation of trust because they’re afraid to lose their independence.

“The residents were independent people before we met them. So, I’ll go to them and say, ‘I’m here as an extension of who you are to help take care of the little things that you used to do, but now might be feeling pressure because you can’t do them anymore.’ And that can make all the difference.”

The very first thing Latonya does when caring for a new resident is get the bedside report. The report helps her understand what level of care the resident will need from her. “Some people are more independent than others, and you don’t want to go in there and give off the impression that you’re their mother or taking over.”

The next thing Latonya does is introduce herself as soon as she walks into the resident’s room. This helps set that foundation of trust because she’s treating the resident like an equal.

“I’ll look around and see if they have pictures of their family and I’ll compliment them. I’ll smile, make sure I’m giving eye contact and speaking clearly. And then I’ll wait for their response to let them know that what they have to say is important to me.”

If the resident seems really hesitant, Latonya has a simple trick.

“If they seem to have doubts, I’ll ask them, how are you? Is everything okay? And I don’t mean from a nursing assistant but from human being to human being, are you okay today?”

In some cases, this doesn’t always work the first time around.

“Sometimes you have to give them the room to feel it out. Sometimes that means stepping away and coming back a little later and asking again. Now, even though they may not respond right away, the third time they're going to respond because they go on to realize, this is the third time she checked on me. Maybe she really wants to know, am I okay?

Asking a simple question like ‘How are you?’ can really build that trust and allow you to help the resident on another level.

“You'd be surprised what they say,” Latonya reflected, “They could say something simple as, I haven't had a glass of water yet, or my daughter hasn’t come to see me. They just, they want to feel heard.”

As a per diem GNA, working with new supervisors each week can also be intimidating.

“At a new facility, I keep it professional. I’m there to take care of the residents, that’s it. If I need help, I make sure to ask specific questions because everyone is busy. With the residents, I’ll be my natural self as I care for them. But with supervisors, I want to make sure they know that I’m there to work, I’m serious, and I’m a team player.”

Latonya loves the per-diem life though because it means she gets to spread her love around.

“I try to hit everywhere because I believe everyone needs some kindness in their life. Yeah, they’re getting care, but they’re not getting my care if I’m not there. So I try to spread myself out and just make sure I’m making a difference in someone else’s life today.”

If you’re in Maryland, connect with Latonya on The Beat to work your next shift with her! We’re so grateful you’re part of our team!

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