The rising demand for health care services -- especially for the elderly -- opened a window of opportunity for Norma Maldonado. The 32-year-old resident of New Bedford, Mass., didn't anticipate a career as a certified nurse's assistant, or CNA, but she's glad she took the plunge. "I told myself years ago I would never do something like this," she says. "And look at me now." She explains how she made the leap in an interview with CareerBuilder.
CareerBuilder: How did you decide to become a CNA?
Norma Maldonado: It was because of the economy, basically. I was laid off from my job in manufacturing. I worked for a company that made parts for hearing aids and medical equipment, things like that. I started out as a production worker, making like $7 per hour, but then I moved up. I became a supervisor and did shipping and receiving. I did lots of different things, which I loved because I was always busy. But then the company sent our jobs to China.
Having some time off was kind of nice, because I'd just had my son. But I'm not a home person. I have to work. That's just me. And then every time I looked in the paper for a job it was always CNAs, HHAs [home health aides]. Also, as part of my unemployment benefits through the state I could get paid training to become a CNA.
CB: What was the training like?
NM: It was seven weeks ... and it was scary [laughs]. But I was willing to learn. I'm ambitious like that.
CB: What was scary about it?
NM: I had to be more of a people person. I had to answer questions; I had to read out loud ... it opened me up a lot.
CB: How did you go about finding a job when the training was over?
NM: My brother's girlfriend was a CNA at an agency in Marion [a nearby town in Massachusetts]. She got me an interview, I went in, and I was hired on the spot. That was three years ago. I worked for the agency for a while, but then it closed. Now I work directly for a family, an arrangement called "private pay."
CB: Tell us about your current job. What's a typical day like for you?
NM: I'm part of a team of people that works in shifts to take care of a 92-year-old woman in her home. I work nights and mornings. Nights are a little slower. I come in, talk to the worker who's there, talk to the client's family if they happen to be there, and I always check the book. That's where we write down any notes about the client's health, medication changes, things like that. Then I go into the client's room and stay there throughout the night. If she's thirsty I get her water, and if she needs to go to the bathroom I help her. In the morning I write my notes in the book, talk to the next worker coming in, and I'm done.
My morning shifts start and end the same way, with a look at the book and a conversation with my co-workers and the family. Then I go check on the patient, who is usually sleeping. Then I clean the kitchen. I've got to keep busy! I get her breakfast ready with the things she likes, prep her medications and set the table. I go in her room and make sure she's OK to get up. She has breakfast and then heads back to bed for another one to two hours. After that I help her get up, take a shower, get dressed and all perfumed up. Then she listens to music or reads a book in the living room while I get her lunch prepped.
CB: What are the biggest challenges in your job?
NM: During our training, they told us not to get too attached to the client. I'm so attached to the clients I take care of. It's hard for me when they get sick, or they pass away.
CB: What are the biggest rewards?
NM: I really like going to work. This job, this house, this family ... it's very easygoing. That's my reward! I'm working and I like my job.
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