Title: Certified Nursing Assistant
Organization: University Hills Health and Rehabilitation in Pensacola, Florida
Interview Date: August 31, 2016
William Thomas “Tom” Bramlett Jr. had never really thought about becoming a CNA until he encountered the compassionate, personal care provided to his elderly grandmother by CNAs. That experience provided him with motivation to enter a field where he now finds professional and personal fulfillment, as well as a career path that promises a growing earning potential.
He has worked at long-term care facility in Pensacola, Florida for six years.
What made you want to become a CNA?
I became a CNA thanks to my grandmother. Growing up, I was never the type to show feelings, preferring to keep my emotions low key. My grandmother, who was 72, was in a hospice care center basically dying of breast cancer. She was there to have her pain managed and to be made comfortable. I would show up every other day, sad and beside myself, not sure what to say or do, or even if she could hear me. But the CNAs would walk in and light up. Two women in particular would come in and cheerily greet us, while talking about their own day and answering questions. In a low moment, I told one of them, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore.’ She just laughed, gave me a hug, and said, ‘Honey, you’re just trying to find a way to say goodbye and I love you.’ She was right.
Where did you go to school to become a CNA and what did you like about it?
I went to George Stone Technical Center in Pensacola, Fla. It’s a very comprehensive CNA program. I graduated with my first four hours in Alzheimer’s training and HIV training. I also graduated with a home health care certificate. I loved everything about my schooling. One of my teachers, Ms. O’Donald, really knew how to teach her class. She would take us for walks around the entire school campus, and she made us play the Name Game, where we had to memorize every one’s first and last name. We quit the Name Game eventually, but the walks continued every day. I never understood why, until I got out of school. I walk twice as much working as a CNA compared to normal life, and I have to memorize names every day.
What advice would you give someone considering CNA school?
Learn to put yourself second. It’s not about how you feel. Having a patient stand there and get upset with you, you need to be able to keep cool and not get angry. That same patient could turn around and look for you, wondering why you’re angry with them. Sometimes elderly people can’t help reacting and feeling a certain way over things. It’s up to you to be the level head, and learn to not take things personally.
When you completed CNA school, what options did you have for employment?
As a man, I had a lot of options. Most long-term care facilities are always looking for men, so there are lots of options for employment. Men have better upper body strength. In the CNA field that always comes in handy, plus there are normally not a lot of men in the nursing field in general.
Generally, what are your responsibilities as a CNA?
CNAs help residents in performing ADLs – activities of daily living – like using the restroom, taking a shower, eating and dressing. We also get to know our residents. Most CNAs will be the first to notice subtle changes in things like behavior or skin conditions.
What advice would you offer new CNAs?
Explore potential workplaces and research your options. Ask to tour places you’re thinking about working or just show up to check the place out so that you can see the environment. Take a job expecting to be at that place for three years. If you can keep it for three, you can keep it for three more. Also, when dealing with residents or their family members, using mister and miss, or sir and mama, goes a very long way. This is very much a reputation field. If you’re known to be friendly and respectful, then you will be relied and depended upon.
What sort of jobs did you do before becoming a CNA?
Before I became a CNA I worked as a security guard, a dish washer and a cook at McDonalds. You wouldn’t think any of those jobs would prepare me for a career in healthcare, but they are all really about customer service. CNA work has a lot to do with customer service, too. When I became a CNA, I immediately saw a $3 per hour increase in pay, with a constantly rising earning potential.