Sally was a new admit on the secure unit for residents with dementia. Her family had left and she was beside herself. Alternating between sobbing and lashing out angrily at the Licensed Nursing Assistant, Kandis Brunelle, LNA and nurse, (me), as we tried to help her. All the while she was walking down the hall with a very unsteady gait and her walker held several inches off the floor. (OY!) “I want to go home. Get away from me! Where’s my husband? You’ve done something with him”Every step was precarious and Sally was inconsolable. Click To Tweet
Can you imagine her trying to get through the door, setting off an alarm, pushing Kandis and I away? Almost falling, sobbing and not able to understand why or where she was.
Usually my attempts to validate the patient’s concerns were helpful, “You want to go home. You don’t want to be here. You’re worried about your husband”, etc. But that night, and I remember it well, they were not helping.
Since none of my usual approaches were working, I let my intuition take over along with my trust in Kandis and her intuition!
I put on a very stern face and tone, and turned to them using authoritative body language with my hands on my hips, (I was the Charge Nurse after all!), and said,
“Young ladies! You are going to get in big deep trouble if you keep up this behavior. It is time to quiet down and I expect you both to do so!
Sally stopped sobbing, wide-eyed and looked at me and then Kandis. Kandis, too was a little wide-eyed looking at me, but quickly got it. She gently took Sally by the arm and said, “We better go sit down or we’re going to get in trouble”. It was a truly a beautiful moment. Sally’s distress melted away as she let Kandis help lead her to a table and chairs. They sat together quietly for a little while. Sally had a friend. She couldn’t have processed her situation fully on a cognitive level, but she was in whatever she was in WITH Kandis. THIS, she could understand. THIS felt safe.
Sally’s process of adjustment was much easier after that night and the role that Kandis played was key!
Kandis has a keen sense of emotional intelligence and many years of experience. She picked up on verbal and non verbal cues (Sally’s and mine), she was able to think on her feet, be flexible, and try something different with me in that moment.
Her intuition and years of experience make her a very valuable resource. Just thinking about it makes me want to give her a big hug. Kandis has these skills naturally, I think. Not everyone does. Thankfully, they can be taught.
One way to develop emotional intelligence is through Medical Improv. In my experience as a teacher, it is a fun, engaging, and effective way to build these essential interpersonal skills. This March, I’m excited to partner with Dartmouth Hitchcock for a full day training in Medical Improv for LNAs, CNAs, and Medical Assistants! If you or someone you know are interested, check out this event flyer!
And if you know an LNA or CNA or Medical Assistant who has made a difference please let them know how grateful you are!