Debra Newman has been serving seniors at Presbyterian Village North (PVN) for 32 years, 27 of which have been spent as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). In recognition of National Nursing Assistants Week, Newman is delighted to share some of her experiences from her years in the field, as well as her own personal advice and perspective on what you need to succeed as a nursing assistant.
“I am grateful that I get to be here for seniors when they need me, no matter what that need may be,” said Newman. “It is rewarding knowing I am able to help somebody, and that they trust me to assist them and care for them. Beyond the kind of care you provide, your kind words, attitude and overall demeanor make a huge impact on them as well. They remember how you treat them, and when you regularly do nice things to help them it makes them happy, of course. Some of the residents in my care have transitioned to other areas within the community, but I still make a point to check on them. It’s easy to build meaningful relationships with residents when your heart is in the right place and you were called to serve. One resident lost his wife, and while he was in my care I checked on him regularly to make sure he was doing well and coping with his loss. Even though he was eventually transitioned to another part of the community, I still make a point to stop by and say hello to him, and he remembers me.”
Newman says that not everyone can do this job, and that a calling to serve has to be embedded in you. She believes that those who work regularly with seniors as a CNA need to be passionate about the care they are delivering and have a desire to serve and help. She noted that having appropriate training and confidence in what you are doing are two important factors for helping CNAs do their job.
“All residents are not the same, some will be happy and you can joke with them, while others might not feel well or are having a bad day,” said Newman. “You must try and maintain a cheerful demeanor no matter what the situation. If you need to step away after a particularly challenging moment, take a few minutes to regroup and collect yourself. If you don’t know the answer to something or how to do something, definitely ask for help. There’s no shame in learning something new. Most importantly, give it your best.”
The residents remind Newman of her own parents and grandparents, who are not with her today. When she helps the residents, she does what she would expect anyone to do for her own family. She credits her years of experience working as a CNA with helping her to nurse her father while he was dying of prostate cancer, doing tasks such as bathing him and administering his medications, and her mother when she was living with diabetes and heart problems. With all her years of experience, she can now act quickly and with confidence. There have been moments during emergencies in which Newman has done everything in her power to make sure residents were well cared for. For her, it’s about doing what she can for residents in their moments of need.
“We are sincerely grateful for the compassion, devotion and thoughtfulness that Debra exudes daily in working with residents of PVN,” said Heather Ashby, director of residential and assisted living of Presbyterian Village North. “I am honored to work side-by-side with her daily and I appreciate all that she does for our residents. Her commitment to making sure residents are well and happy is inspiring. She has a desire to help in any capacity, and is well respected among her peers. She motivates her fellow team members to share the same kind of love and jovial attitude with residents in their care. We are privileged to have Debra on our team, and we commend her 32 years of service in recognition of National Nursing Assistants Week. It is an outstanding achievement, and we look forward to continued resident satisfaction as she leads by example. I would like to also thank all the CNAs and CMAs at PVN for enriching the lives of our residents and their families. They are a blessing to our organization.”