We have a large geriatric psychiatry unit. Since these are the sickest of the sick, a lot of direct care staff is involved with patient care- aides who sit with patients, feed them, dress them, try to keep them from falling. They are usually the ones who get assaulted by patients. Its not an easy job.
She stands out. She’s young, with chubby, rosy cheeks and a shy demeanor. I see her every morning, feeding the patients. She talks to them, unlike other aides. She smiles at them, even when they can’t see her smile. When a patient wets his pants and I ask her if she can change him, she does it even though there are a million other things she must be doing at the moment.
When my supervisor and I walk in on morning rounds, she’s feeding one of our sickest patients. She makes a move to leave, but he asks her to stay, saying, ‘You must hear this’. She stays.
Later, in the staff lounge, she stops me.
Why did he ask me to stay? Had I done something wrong?
‘No. You were fine. He wanted you to be a part of the interview, because you spend so much time with Ms. X.’
Oh. She’s silent for a minute.
I thought he was upset with me for something. He’s so intimidating.
I can’t help but smile. ‘He intimidates me too, but don’t let it fool you. He’s very kind.’
I’m glad I asked you. You look at me. Some of the doctors don’t. They just look through us.
I feel a little smug. ‘You’re as much a part of the team as I am. It would be silly to ignore you.’
Well, do you know who I am?
I’m nonplussed. ‘You are a direct care aide.’
Well, actually, I’m a milieu therapist. I have my Bachelors in Psychology. I’m supposed to run therapy groups. I help with patient care because we are so short-staffed.
And just like that, I’m humbled again.