Nursing student describes struggles in direct care workplace

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MSU nursing junior Hannah Saunders works as a resident care aid for Brio Living Services in Chelsea, Michigan. With the recent staffing shortages for direct care workers, Saunders and her coworkers have to work more. 

“We are probably the most short-staffed we have ever been,” Saunders said. “That can be quite a bit overwhelming but we just try to reassure (the residents) that we’re doing the best that we can with the numbers that we have and we just have to take our time and get to everybody when we can.”

During a normal, fully staffed time Saunders would have eight to 12 residents on her caseload. Now she can have up to 20 residents to take care of. 

“We just get double the workload,” Saunders said. “It’s very frustrating just because we know that (the residents) are not getting the care that they deserve and that they pay for.”

Saunders said Brio Living Services has made many attempts to attract new employees such as offering sign-on bonuses, commitment bonuses and more money to work the second shift. She thinks more advertising and higher pay might bring in more interest.

“Direct-care workers that are low on the spectrum, they just don’t get paid a lot,” Saunders said. “That’s kind of where the shortage is from is nobody wants to make that and do what we do. That’s kind of where the issue lies.”

Saunders started working at Brio Living Services two years ago because she liked helping people. She transitioned into a direct-care role to gain experience before nursing school, and her job involves hands-on care for the residents.

“We just help them with everyday tasks that they aren’t able to do themselves,” Saunders said. “We just dress them, help them with oral care, help them with toileting. We also will give them their medication, take their vitals.”

Although it can be mentally and physically demanding, especially with an increased caseload, Saunders said the best part of the job is interacting with the residents.

“The residents make everything worth it,” Saunders said. “Some of them are just so sweet and kind and in a way they become like family because we see them the most out of everyone.”

After building relationships with the residents, Saunders says direct-care workers should strive to provide the best care.

“At this point, (the residents) have lived their lives and we owe it to them to take care of them,” Saunders said. “Almost all of them were mothers and fathers that raised their kids and took care of them and went through life and did what they had to do. Now it’s somebody else’s turn to take care of them.”