Certifiable (Part 4)

–4th Saturday

I didn’t crack a book or look at a note card or practice any skills that first week of break. I enjoyed not worrying about the upcoming Saturday and dealing with four hours of mental anguish and then having an hour to get home, eat, change and get to work. I had an entire week to devote to learning and practicing a few range of motion exercises.  Easy peasy. I figured I’d start on the following Sunday.  


Certifiable (Part 3)

I indeed started looking at the instructions on Sunday for the range of motion exercises. Not too difficult. OK, I’ll make proper note cards tomorrow, I thought to myself. Monday came and I got lazy and skipped making note cards or practicing the terms used in the exercises.  Mondays are a tough work day in particular, so I decided I’d take it easy before work knowing what I had to look forward to later.

Tuesday came, and it was my first day off. I slept in like I usually do on my first day off.  I ate and waited a bit, went down to the gym for a little exercise, showered, took a nap, and then it was too late to do any studying as I had to get ready for our buddy’s newly freed-of-a-cancer diagnosis party, at a favorite martini bar. I tested the number of martinis I could safely have without the inevitable hangover the following day and failed, badly. So, consequently, Wednesday was a bust in terms of studying.  

Hmmm… Ok, there was still time, I thought. Thursday arrived and I felt human again. I put in a concentrated effort and make my notecards, memorize the steps, memorize the terms, and review my green notebook one more time and SH*T!, WHAT?, how did I not see “feeding” on my list of skills for the last class? Ugh, ok, well, I’ll study again after we come back from our weekly Thursday happy hour wine bar get together with 20-30 of our pals. Thursday evening arrives, post happy hour, and I am absolutely not interested in studying. Que the slow but consistent flood of anxiety I can start to feel as the time ticks away toward Saturday.

Friday came, and it was the start of my work schedule again. I used the morning to make the note card for feeding but didn’t practice the steps or memorize anything about the skill. I told myself I’d wake up tomorrow early and put in a couple of hours before class. Friday is the busiest and craziest time at work of the entire schedule, but there’s two of us behind the bar so it’s more manageable than when I’m by myself. Friday night usually ends with a meal at home and staying up late while I let my head calm down from the buzz of going 100mph behind the bar. I also let my body digest the food, as I did that night, while I thought about how I maybe shouldn’t have wasted that first week of break.  

I woke up early on Saturday and re-studied the skills I had to know, though I was nowhere as ready to demonstrate the skill for “feeding” as I was for the ROM exercises. 

I got ready and headed to class. I arrived and settled in while the others arrived and took their seats. Someone asked the instructor how it all went at her father’s funeral.  She let out a deep, “oohhhh, too much drama!”…and dropped it. 

The first part of the classroom portion was us exchanging about 8 quizzes with each other that we were expected to take during the first three weeks of class.  The instructor waited about two minutes and then startled rattling off the answers to the quizzes.  We graded each other’s quizzes and indicated the correct answer if someone answered incorrectly. 

After the quiz grading, we all went back to the skills room. It is at this point, she took us all again, for probably the 8th time for real, and showed us again, how to properly wash our hands. 

We all sat down again and she said, “OK, who has Range of Motion, let’s go, c’mon, no wasting time… Ryan, come, be the patient.”  What, why me?  She told me to get into the bed nearest her and lie down. I had become Ms. Suzie, our full size plastic manipulatable patient.

The first person attempted the exercise and of course, failed at most of the steps, but the instructor is less harsh on this Saturday. She hadn’t become Ms. Geniality or anything, but she just asked the student to step aside and she started doing the skills on me herself. But, she couldn’t help but feel my inability to relax my limbs, and kept telling me to relax, like simply telling me to do so was going to do it. I felt like an absolute ragdoll and could not for the life of me “relax” any more than I felt I was, but she kept insisting I was too stiff. It became a bit of a joke and offered some levity for the situation but it was eye opening to me that she could feel I was tense.  I’m probably more obvious than I think, but I definitely tried to let go mentally and go limp physically with my entire body, but it apparently wasn’t happening. 

A couple of more students tried practicing on me, with varying degrees of success. I blamed it on the patient. 

After ROM, the instructor had us redo the vitals skills.  I went second and from indirect care to the “end skills” (common end steps attributed to every skill, no matter what), I carried them out just about perfectly.  So much so, the instructor laughed when I finished by saying, “I am finished with this skill” which is the way you end all skills, and said, “Perfect, Ryan, you pass entire exam.” A rare glimpse of humor from the instructor, and everyone giggled a bit. 

After everyone did the vitals skills, there was about an hour and change remaining in the class and she asked if anyone had questions. No one spoke up at first and she started in with the sarcasm, “So, everyone is perfect on every skill, any one of you can do Peri-care, Footcare, Transfer the patient, Mouth/dentures care, Feeding, Partial bed bath, Catheter care – you all have no questions and can do each of these, and all the rest perfectly, yes?”  Sheepishly, people started asking a few questions, and I asked a question about bedpan changing. A few others asked questions and then that became what we were going to do for the remainder of the class, which was whoever asked the question would attempt that skill. Oh man, I just walked back into a trap. It’d been two weeks since I did the bedpan thing and I never did it totally successfully in class.  I started to sweat again but others were called before me, and when it finally got to my turn, the instructor said there wasn’t enough time, so she’d just do it.  

The class ended with her handing out folders that contained the certificate we received for completing the class.  Though it’s not worth much beyond the paper it’s printed on, I gave myself a thumb’s up for sticking through it when I didn’t feel it was doing for me what I hoped it might. Upon leaving class for the last time, the instructor called out to me and said I owed her lunch after I took and passed the certification exam. I think she might be waiting a long while.

I came to the realization that while I could and would offer this type of care for people I cared about, I don’t think I have it in me emotionally to carry out this work as a profession. I have deep appreciation for people who commit their working lives to be in service to others, especially in roles like these, where the need for genuine compassion is just as important as the actual care. 

With that, I offer my thanks and gratitude to all who work in a caregiver role, a demanding but critically needed service which all too often goes thankless. 


Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney
Ryan Maloney is a husband, bartender, caregiver, drummer, and former online advertising professional. In addition to writing and drumming, Ryan enjoys cooking for and entertaining friends as well as going to the beach and traveling the world. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale with his main squeeze, John. Though born and raised in Chicago, Il until the age of 14, Ryan considers his true hometown to be Phoenix, AZ. Ryan spent over 30 years in Arizona, starting in 1985 at Cortez High School. From there, community college and ASU followed, but all the while, Ryan was drumming up a frenzy in local heavy metal bands. His late teens saw his main band, TYNATOR, achieve a small amount of local success, as well as release a cd to the European market. The opportunity of a lifetime came in 2000, which provided the basis for one of his writing series', PUMPJACK - The Ozzfest 2k diaries. The 12 chapter series documents the meeting of two friends, and then the events that led up to the band, PUMPJACK, heading out on the annual summer Ozzfest tour in 2000, in which the band had been invited to participate, as well as some memories of some of the individual city tour stops.After the tour, Ryan began what then became a 15 year career in online advertising. Having left the corporate world behind in 2017, Ryan now enjoys serving drinks to thirsty customers in Wilton Manors, Florida.

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