Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

What happens when your best isn't good enough? Didn't all of us learn that growing up? "Just do your best, that's all we can ask/expect of you." "If you do your best, you can be satisfied with your performance." Well, I guess that notion is a bunch of bunk when you're a widow. When did all these rules/beliefs change?

At work the other day, a resident complained to me because of the time it took me to get to him in the morning. I had 16 demanding residents that day and was not having an easy time of it. That group of residents is one of the two most difficult in the nursing home. I told the man that "I was doing my best." He said, "Then your best isn't good enough."

These words really stung me and I've thought about them since. What happens when your best isn't good enough? What does that mean? Am I a failure? Worthless?

The nursing home job bears such similar aspects to my widowhood life. It's a tough, challenging, tiring job and when I'm there I sometimes feel as though I'll never get the job done. I get behind and have trouble keeping up. Obviously I need to get a new job asap. And if I could, I would give my notice immediately but we need the money I am earning there too much in the meantime. I get home after working 9 hours on my feet and am so physically exhausted I can barely walk. On my days off I do my best to tend to the shopping, cooking and such.

I have trouble keeping it all together at home. It feels as though I am never caught up. But I'm trying my best and my hardest. And I still can't make it. So I repeat that question again. What if your best isn't good enough?


  1. Well, first of all I wouldn't give another moment's thought to that guy and his comment. I worked in retail for several years when I was younger, and we regularly got customers who would say those sorts of things and worse - and 99 percent of the time it wasn't because we'd actually done anything wrong, it was because we were service workers and they were entitled jerks. In this guy's case, he's also a resident in a nursing home, and he's old and sick and probably feels disempowered by having to rely on someone else for care, so he's taking his frustration out on the nearest person, who in this case happened to be you.

    As for the rest, I would argue that your best IS good enough. Just by providing food, shelter and clothing for yourself and your kids, you're doing better than a lot of other people. And if you think about it, you'll realize that you often go above and beyond those essentials - remember a few days ago when you were feeling happy about serving a nice meal and watching TV as a family? Lots of people don't have that. I didn't when I was a teenager. It all depends on what your standard of "good enough" is, and at least in your home life, you're the one who gets to decide - not the grumpy old men of the world, not your married neighbors, not me, not anyone else. You set the standard, and if anyone else doesn't think it's enough, you tell them to suck it!

  2. When facing the needs of 16 individuals, somebody is going to be first, and somebody is going to be last. Doing more than our best isn't going to change that. Trying to make the last person understand this is probably a losing battle. I suppose you have to just remind yourself that you doing your best, in spite of what someone feels from their perspective.

  3. Agree with both Vanessa and Dan. One of my good friends has been a nurse in an extended care facility for over 20 years. Some of the stuff that she puts up with from the residents and also from some family members of those residents is almost beyond belief. I think it goes with the territory. As Vanessa said, these are often people who really don't want to be there and may be sick, in pain, senile, etc.. and they are angry and just want someone to abuse. Unfortunately, they are taking out their anger and frustration on you. I know it's hard to ignore that kind of behaviour as you have no good recourse. When I worked in the auto industry, I had to put up with a lot of abusive language from some of the men I worked with. They were flat rate mechanics who are paid by the job rather than by the hour, so they are impatient and rude if they have to wait even a minute for someone to get the parts out that they need (which was my job). They would push and shove to get in front of each other at the counter, and get obnoxious if we didn't have the part they needed in stock. However, the good thing with my job was that we (myself and the other partsmen) would just say insulting things back - such as tossing a pack of crackers on the counter and saying, "Care for some crackers with your whine?" or hold a hand up and rub our thumb and forefinger together and say, "World's smallest violin playing just for you." Although you aren't in the position to say these things out loud, maybe you should come up with a few smartass comments you can play in your head as you go about your work listening to unjustified complaining. Just a thought.

  4. Hi -- you've gotten a lot of great advice and insight from folks here ... and the only thing I can add is that, being in the HR field (where we take a tremendous amount of cr*p from people), I've had success with a reply like this, delivered in a soft tone: "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I can't do any better than my best." (Repeat as needed.)

    Hugs ...

  5. Obviously where you work does not have enough staff--16 residents for just you? Yes--start looking for another job--all nursing homes aren't like that one. As for the old guy--he's just pissy because he's old and crabby, doesn't like where he is and wishes he could just go home, but knows he never will. Personally, I think you are doing your best and better--Steady On Friend.

  6. Vanessa - I appreciate your feedback, especially what you said about standards being what we establish and not those set by others. But it is very disheartening to work at a place where the guy does have a right to feel angry that he was neglected. The first person he comes into contact with is me. It doesn't matter that the nursing home is short staffed. In the end, they'll save face by blaming me for not being fast enough.

    Dan - I liked the obvious sense your words made - someone is going to be first, someone last. I also agree that it can be fruitless to try and explain things to people. Wasted effort and breath.

    Bev - Thanks for sharing your story about the auto job. I know all jobs have their issues. And I agree that those in nursing homes take it from the residents, family members of residents and then the management/administration. Seems like no one is on your side. What I found so disconcerting was how much this job resembles real life as a widow. I was hoping for a break from the widowhood grind. But both seem to share such similarities!

    CCC - Like your suggestion of how to respond.

    Judy - It amazes me that I seem to be the only one at this place complaining that the caseload is too much for one CNA to handle. It scares me that nursing homes exist like this at all. I'm hoping there are some out there with more staff. Some residents at this nursing home have individual CNAs that come in to provide care in addition to the care provided for by the facility. Those people are the lucky ones. Sometimes I get a person up at 6:15 a.m. and never have a chance to even nod hello to them the rest of the day! That is sad and scary to me.