I have the easiest job.
I work overnights in a home for developmentally disabled adults. I am a "sleepover staff" which means that I'm allowed to sleep during the night. My co-worker is the "awake staff"--he doesn't have the same luxury that I do. He has to stay awake, clean the house and keep an eye on everyone during the night.
It's not all sleep for me though. I have a small checklist of assignments that I need to complete. In the morning, it is my job to pass all of the medications and to assist with getting the guys up and ready to go to work or school. This isn't always an easy task because my guys can be very challenging at times.
But mostly...it's a piece of cake.
I haven't always been this lucky. For ten out of the last thirteen years (I took a break when Bear was born), I have worked with disabled adults in various types of residential programs. I have worked with incredibly independent individuals, who barely needed assistance with anything and I've also worked in homes where the clients were completely dependent on me for every aspect of their care. I've worked as a supervisor, a program manager, and an ordinary staff member.
I've cared for individuals with just about every developmental disability and mental illness that you can think of.
I've dealt with obsessive behaviors, obnoxious behaviors....aggressive, attention-seeking, and self-injurious behaviors.
I've been knee deep in practically every bodily fluid.
Sounds awful right? Not to me. I sincerely love what I do. It is absolutely the best job that I've ever had.
I fell into this work by accident. I took a chance and applied for a job that I had zero qualifications for. Up until then, all of my work experience involved the words "Would you like fries with that?" But starting with that first job, I've felt that this field is where I belong.
My guys have become family. I care about them. They are a part of my life as much as I am a part of theirs. I go to sleep at night knowing that what I do is important...that I am making a difference in someone's life...even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way.
I just wish it paid more.
With ten years experience, I don't make much more than I did when I first started. My guys aren't physically demanding and I get to sleep for half my shift--so I don't complain much. But not everyone who works in this field is as fortunate as I am and the work can be so much harder--physically, mentally, and emotionally. You would think that caring for people....some of the most vulnerable people in our population...would be worth more than just a few dollars over minimum wage.
That's part of why I decided to go to nursing school.
I'm sure that nurses aren't paid what they are worth either. But, from where I'm sitting financially, nursing looks like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I'm graduating soon and I'll be looking for a job in the coming months. I'm excited and petrified. I'm really sad about leaving my guys...I've known some of them for longer than I've known my own children!
But I look forward to the new journey ahead of me.