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Old 09-30-2006, 09:50 PM   #1
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Unhappy The New Job

I so hate to tell you guys this, but my new job is not working out the way I had hoped. I'm very unhappy there. (At the nursing home.) I'm beginning to think that my "dream job" doesn't exist.

I want to preface this by saying that I gave up a lot for this job, thinking it would fulfill me. I consider myself to be a fairly upbeat person & not a complainer by nature. There are just too many things wrong here for me.

So, what are the problems?

- the way the job was advertised & what I was told in my interview was that it would be 30 hours a week and that was considered to be full-time w/benefits. The hours were to be 12:30 PM to 6:30 PM Tuesday thru Friday, and then every other weekend. After I took the job, I was told that it was a 31.5 hour a week job - meaning I needed to come in at 11:30 each weekday (except for Wed.) And when I went in at 11:30, I needed to take a 1/2 hour break, off the clock. (I was working 25 hours per week at the bank so I figured an extra 5 hours per week wasn't gonna be a big deal. Now it's up to 8 hours & I don't get paid for 1 1/2 of them, even tho' I need to be there.)

All I really want to do is cook. I like to put a little bit of myself into what I do. And I was told that I could do things the way I wanted to. Except that I only have certain ingredients to work with there & some things are done "the way they are always done".

Most days I chop & put something (chicken, turkey, eggs, imitation crab, tuna, etc.) thru the food processor, mix it with a gallon or more of mayo, add some salt, pepper, onion and/or garlic powder & that's that. The cream soups all start out the same - just add the steamed vegetable of the day & there you have it. Each item needs to have about 1/3 of it pureed in a blender. Then some more things need to be ground up in a food processor.

It seems that I spend a lot of time cleaning & dishing things up. The most intense thing is doing the "serving line" - which lasts from 40-60 minutes - there are 6 different areas (wings & dining rooms). I have to put the proper type of food on the proper type of plate. During the serving line there are always several interruptions from the CNAs: so&so doesn't want this, they want something else - usually some sort of sandwich (PB&J, Grilled Cheese, Meat Sandwich).

All I ever hear are complaints from the residents - one woman gave me an earfull last Sat. night about how her food is always cold. I made a special effort on Sunday - I did her meal last & made sure the hot things were very hot. I went to see her that evening & she still wasn't happy - she didn't remember that I had spoken to her the evening before, until right before our conversation was done.

It's depressing at a nursing home - to see people just slumped over their wheelchair trays or always "sleeping" in their rooms. 2 people have died in the short time I've been there.

Finally, my supervisor always makes me feel that I don't do much of anything right. He's never said that I've done anything well - just always corrects me & tells me he does things. I feel like this - if we both arrive at the same end point, what does it matter how we got there?

So, where do I go from here? Who knows? Onward...



I'm all about the food!
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:09 PM   #2
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I'm sorry Corinne!!!! I can only imagine how disheartening this all is. I, like you, don't know if the atmosphere of a nursing home is something I could live with.

I know this leaves you in a bad situation. I can only assume you will be looking for something else? I have a feeling I would be. I will be praying hard that some kind of answer/solution comes your way. In the meantime,


"Count yourself...you ain't so many" - quote from Buck's Daddy
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:19 PM   #3
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Ok, it sounds depressing but one thing to remember, put yourself in their shoes.... (the folks committed to the this place) they probably don't want to be there either and are grumpy and unsatisfied and lonely... I can only imagine and my heart aches for them. For you, I don't know how much neagativity I can take before I just plum want to give up. My guess is that you are trying to do your best in a situation that seems pretty ungratifying. I have always wanted to contribute in a situation like this and hearing your account makes me a little leery of even giving it consideration. We all want to think that we can make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it leaves you with a feeling of helplessness and a total disrespect for the way we treat our elders.

My heart goes out to you... specially considering the sacrafices that you made to do so. I don't know that I would be able to make such a decision in my life knowing the impacts that it could have.

I am at a loss as to what to say to you, but I can be here for you anytime you need to vent. I hope and pray that it works out and that you can make a difference in someones life.

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Old 10-01-2006, 01:13 AM   #4
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Oh dear, Corinne. You poor thing!

Honestly, though, a nursing home wasn't likely to be what you hoped for in that surely it must be a combination of heavy regulations and pretty strict dietary guidelines. Combine that with plain ol' industrial cooking and, where's the fun indeed?

Could you locate a small diner or cafe, someplace with a rotating, interesting menu? They wouldn't be likely to let you take over the cooking right away, but you could creep into it I'd think (bring the owner a few favorites now and again and/or ask outright if you can have a cooking audition). The clientele would be bound to be more interesting and appreciative too.

Good luck!
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Old 10-01-2006, 04:06 AM   #5
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I feel for you, Corine, and my advice is probably not going to be what you will want to hear, but I suggest you put in your notice and find another job. I am a professional chef and my ex-wife was a dietary cook, working at a nursing home. Additionally, my aunt was an RN @ a nursing home.

First off, there's very little room for 'creativity.' Things like salt & spices must be very tightly controlled. Many elderly persons cannot have much sodium in their diet and can't tolerate much seasoning to speak of. Bland is the order of the day- we're talking school cafeteria food, but worse. Consequently, nursing homes aren't hotbeds of culinary creativity and don't generally attract the 'talent.'

Many older people are a blessing, but sadly, nursing homes aren't happy places. Many of the tenents suffer from demensia which affects mood & behavior, and of course a wealth of aging related health problem which profoundly affects their spirits. The rare person will opt to 'make the best of it,' but many resent being placed there and look upon a "home" as a place they're relagated too until they die.

And sadly, that's the worst reality of a nursing home: most of the people there are there to die. Both my aunt & my ex constantly relayed heartbreaking tales of the wonderful little old lady or kindly old gentleman who just wasn't there for breakfast one day. It can be demoralizing to befriend these often lonely people, doing what you can to brighten their sometimes dreary days, only to see them pass before your eyes. It takes either an extraordinary sense of compassion & desire to server or an exceptionally hard heart to survive that environment for long. If you have a hard time with that type of heartbreak, as most reasonably empathetic people to, your job will probably be unending misery.

There are plenty of jobs that will let you do some cooking. My heartfelt advice is to leave your current job to those that are "called" to it & those who simply don't care.

Best of luck in any event.
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Old 10-01-2006, 05:05 AM   #6
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Oh Corrine I'm so sorry. Maybe you should look into being a short order cook at a tavern or something ?
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Old 10-01-2006, 08:06 AM   #7
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Wow Corrine, I do not know where to start. Only you can decide, in your heart, if a nursing home is the place for you. I worked in one for 13 years and I never met a hard hearted employee working there. They all were the most kind workers you can imagine. They obviously were not there for the money, they were there for the satisfaction of making the last days the best possible for the elderly. I was in middle management, and saw the business from many angles.
First of all, wage and hour laws dictate what they do for lunch breaks, this is standard and should have been explained upon orientation, you are there 8 1/2 hours and get paid for 8 (or fewer in your case).
It is true for the most part that there is little creativity in meal prep. Standard recipes must be followed. But corporate policy also plays a part. I was fortunate to work for a corp.whose policy was to provide as liberal a diet as possible. The rational being, it is hard to get the elders interested in eating restrictive, unfamiliar diets, so why not let them eat what they want. We rarely used sodium restricted diets We used spices liberally because taste buds decline in function with age and you need more spices so the elders can taste them.
Tray/serving line is the pits. It will always be stressful. There should be a policy in place to deal with the substitution requests from the CNA's. CNA's should not be allowed to interupt tray line for substitions. We used to do tray line first, then dealt with subs after all meals had been dished up.
Yep, there is a lot of portioning out of foods and cleanup. This is were kinship with others makes the job go faster.
ALways keep in mind that you are there to make life a bit happier for the elders.
For the most part, nobody wants to live in a nursing home (but I do, I have a very positive attitude about them, would have no hesitation about moving into one). They have lost all control of their lives, they are told when to go to bed, when to get up, when to eat, bathe etc. The only thing they have control over is their ability to complain about the food, and they take full advantage of that. But they really are not complaining about the food. They are complaining about getting old, living in a nursing home, the kids not visiting, not getting pains meds timely, but it just comes out to sound like food complaints. They are screaming for comfort, acknowledgment, for an ear to listen.
Yes people go to nursing homes to die. But I do not think that is sad. We actually all will die, you, me, all of us. If you have a progressive nursing home management, it can be quite fun to be apart of the scene.
Your supervisor has a tremondous amount of responsibility. It does matter how you get to the end result. Nursing homes are highly regulated and should be.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
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Old 10-01-2006, 11:44 AM   #8
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I don't imagine that many jobs that require such massive portions and restrictive diets would allow for much creativity, though it makes sense that a nursing home would be the place where you might need to be the most creative to get great food out of meager ingerdients.

I know the pain of working in a job you hate, it gets depressing and stressful very quickly, and it only seems to get worse. I've always made it a point to have a few " Plan B" options for when things didn't work out. One of these has been to try out a small-scale catering business. Being near a major university, we always have seminars with famous (in academic circles) speakers, seminars of all varieties, and many of these events are so specialized that the total number of attendees and personnel participating in the setup, etc. max out at 20 people. There's also alot of business meting going on, lots of Board of Director type meetings for various departments and subdepartments of the univesrity, and they amost always order in catering or take out.

A good thing about catering is that you get to design the menu, and you can add the things that your friends and family like best, and the things that your are the best at making. If your repertoire of dishes you feel confident about doesn't seem to be enough to fill a menu, then it's also a great chance to teach yourself some new dishes, and pick up some extra skills.

Another great thing is that you know ahead of time what you'll be serving, and how much you'll be serving, so you don't have to buy ingredients until a day or two before you need them. It also affords you the opportunity to decide how much time you need for prep and cooking. Finally, you can choose your own pace. If you have to large events two days apart from each other and someone else wants to squeeze in a smaller event in between them, you can always turn them down because "You're booked for that day" . It's definitely not for everyone, but this is always something that I would think would be fun to try, and not exceedingly difficult to do. Plus, your only inital startup cost would be advertising to get your name out there, flyers, etc. and business cards. Everything else is on a buy as you need it basis.
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Old 10-01-2006, 12:55 PM   #9
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Corinne, sorry the job isn't working out as you had hoped/expected.

First, I would get the hours, salary etc. advertised, straightened out with Personnel.

If you can, stick it out as long as possible to establish experience in the food/cooking industry.

I don't know your financial situation, but usually rule of thumb - don't walk away from one position until you find another. If you stay, keep looking around.

If you can, get your old job at the bank. You can still pursue an ideal job, while working in a notso hotso job.

Take a look at craigslist. Advertise or apply for cooking related positions of interest.

Your local unemployment office should have job postings & will probably help you find a position of your choice.

Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.
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Old 10-01-2006, 01:01 PM   #10
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I am so sorry that things are not working out at the nursing home. My mother was there for five years until she passed away.

When I went to visit I felt very bad for the nurses, attendants and also the people in the kitchen.

I have faith in you and I know you will find another job.


Jill and Jolie
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