Florida Health Care Association is pleased to recognize Robin Coker, Certified Nursing Assistant at Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Home, as the 2018 Honorable Mention winner of FHCA’s CNA Essay Contest. This year’s contest focused on the theme, “CNAs: Creating a Community of Caring” where participants were given six topics around which to write their essay – Dignity, Respect, Compassion, Listening, Communication or Standards of Care – and write about how these words translated into their daily practice of caring for residents. Robin has been a CNA for 6 years and focused on “respect” as the key to quality care for her residents. Read her submission below.
I worked at a car dealership for 13 years, and when I turned fifty I found myself unfulfilled. I wanted to be a caregiver, so I quit my job, and with the help of my always-supportive parents, I went to the local VoTech for CNA training. School was difficult. I was the oldest in class, but I worked hard and got my license. I filled out lots of applications and took a job at an ALF. Then one day I was thrilled to get a voice mail from the local Veterans’ Nursing Home. It’s named for Douglas T. Jacobson (DTJ) in honor of his extraordinary service to our country in WWII.
I’ve worked at DTJ five years now. We are a team of great CNA’s, nurses, and ancillary services, all with one goal; to provide great personal and professional care to veterans and their families.
I love to learn about a resident veteran’s history by looking at the old pictures of him and his military buddies, the families they had when they came home from service, and their careers. These veterans are our heroes. They sometimes have sad stories and we cry; funny stories and we laugh. These guys are our friends. We are together every day, weekends, and holidays.
When a resident’s health declines and he dies, I feel a sense of responsibility to prepare my friend for his loved one’s arrival. I was honored to perform postmortem care for an Air Force retiree whom I had known three years. This was the last opportunity I had to be with and provide care for this man. During his last year, this gentleman became agitated when being shaved. He just hated it, and he couldn’t be still. On occasion his loving wife would slowly coax him and help him sit still long enough for me to shave him. When he passed, here I was, able to give him the finest shave I ever had. I got rid of the hospital gown, I washed him, and then I applied the lotion his wife had always provided. He smelled so good! Then I picked out a polo shirt and dressed him. I arranged the covers neatly and stepped back, trying to see the scene through his wife’s eyes as she arrived. He looked good and at peace.
Men in suits came from the funeral home. They emerged from the room with the veteran on a gurney draped with an American flag. As he was wheeled out to the waiting vehicle, all resident veterans and employees stopped what they were doing to face the exiting resident. The resident veterans, standing to the best of their ability, saluted. Family members and employees walked out with the veteran and tears were shed. I was able to touch the flag as a last goodbye.
This moving real-life gesture of our love for a friend is a beautiful thing to witness and to be a small part of.
FHCA’s CNA Essay Contest helps to raise awareness about the important role of Certified Nursing Assistants and their contributions toward the exceptional care and quality of life for
Florida’s long term care residents and patients. Robin Coker earned a prize of $100 for her influential essay thanks to the Florida Health Care Education and Development Foundation. We also would like to recognize Carlyn Registe of Rehab and Health Care Center of Tampa, Maletide Mirtil of Medicana Nursing and Rehab Center and Jackie Spradley of Brynwood Health and Rehab Center as our first-place, second-place and third-place winners, respectively. For more information about FHCA’s CNA Essay Contest and to read these award-winning entries, click here.