900 Seconds

Anyone who is involved in a profession that provides care to another person knows three words: hustle, shuffle and repeat. I watch caregivers in the facility every day perform the same task on a different person over and over and over again. It can become a mundane task, becoming almost robotic.
Many years ago, I worked in a facility that I helped develop a program called ” Remember Everyone As a Person” (REAP) for short. How it worked was simple; I would announce over the overhead system, ” It is now time to REAP.” stopwatch For fifteen minutes, every person in the building would stop doing whatever they were doing and sit down with a patient and do nothing but interact with a patient. Housekeepers stopped cleaning, cooks stopped cooking, nurses stopped passing meds, laundry teams stopped washing and folding, receptionist flipped phone systems to auto answer, maintenance men stopped hammering and administrative teams stopped shuffling paper. For fifteen minutes, every employee found a patient to interact with……simply interact…. Staff took residents outside, going on walks or wheelchair strolls, others read, braided hair, gave manicures, shared a cup of coffee and just listened to the patient.
Fifteen minutes. 900 seconds. In that short time frame, patients were not treated as patients… they were treated as individuals, people, humans…..not warehoused residents …….
Sitting at my desk one day, I received a call from my boss’s boss’s boss’s, bigger boss. Oh how I love corporate facilities with their hierarchy of the chain of command.boss
” Ms. Steele, we have received a complaint here at the Home Office in regards to an unauthorized program you have started in your facility. I believe it is called the Reapers program? The daughter of your resident, Maggie May, stated she came into your facility on August 4th to find her mother having her nails painted by the maintenance man? She found this to be unacceptable. She states her mother’s room has chipped pain in TWO places, yet your staff is painting fingernails? Ms. Steele, you are hereby warned that this program is to be ceased immediately and your staff is to assume their appropriate job titles and duties ONLY associated with those titles. Are we clear Ms. Steele?”
I was stunned. Shocked. Intimidated. Then without thought to who I was speaking to , I became angry.
“You cannot be serious right now. This program, and it’s called REAP, not REAPER, is meant to enhance the resident’s quality of life for a simple 15 minutes a day. It allows the staff to show love, compassion and kindness instead of just meeting the basic needs of the resident. It’s a program designed to treat the patient like he or she is NOT a patient for just 15 minutes a day…..” Before I could continue with my monologue, defending my program, I was cut short….
” So you are allowing every staff member to take a 15 minute break every day on top of their two scheduled 15 minute breaks and their 30 minute lunch break? Am I hearing you correctly Ms. Steele? Are you aware of the productivity you are allowing your building to lose by such poor leadership?”
There you have it. I was now a poor leader and my job hung in the balance …..all because of chipped paint….in TWO places……..and because of a maintenance man painting Maggie’s nails………
” Ms. Steele, you are officially directed to stop this program. Breaks are only to be taken as scheduled as stated in the Company Guidelines, Chapter 11, Subsection 2a. Should you fail to comply with this directive, you will be written up by your Regional Director who may take further disciplinary action. Our company mission is to provide outstanding care to those in our care, Ms. Steele, and having family complaints is not a good reflection on your understanding of our mission. I expect full compliance. ”
After that phone call, I sat in my office, feeling like such a failure. My self pity was interrupted by someone asking what time Reap would be because she had to run to McDonald’s for food.
” There will be no more Reap, per home office…….” There. I had carried out the directive I had been given by my superior. Word spread like a raging wildfire though-out the entire building. Some employees were angry, some happy and others yet, indifferent. Me? I was confused about what we were supposed to be doing altogether……
Many years have passed since I received that phone call….I have grown older and hopefully wiser. I still do not agree with the decision to end Reap….. I have never implemented it again for fear of the same reasoning of a big shot somewhere in a Home Office finding it to be ”non-productive”.
What if we went about our entire lives never stopping to share 900 seconds of our lives just to show kindness, compassion and caring to our fellow mankind? What if we all went about doing things that only self served and self preserved our own interest? What if we focused only on ourselves, uncaring about our fellow mankind in any fashion? What if we only spoke to one another strictly for business conversation, nothing more……..There would be no more chit chat, conversation or friendly gestures. Just straight to the point, matter of fact, point on conversation, then it’s over……….. Business as usual. Period. Nothing more.
Hmmmm…………………….900 seconds……is it really that much time to show others love and kindness? My thought on this is simple…….as a man sows…………..Man sows


3 thoughts on “900 Seconds

  1. Reading about your REAP program got me so excited that the bad news was even more horrible! It is tragic that our care system, especially for those with dimentia, has in so many ways become so focused on the bottom line that it overlooks the small niceties that make the world a kinder place. Thank you for this post, and for what you do. – Fawn

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that The Reap Program was awesome!!!! So sad it had to end and the “complainer” did not understand the beauty of what was happening.
      Maybe a donated 15 minutes at the beginning or end of a shift as a voluntary community act of kindness??? Which then might spread to other facilities?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel you on this one. At our facility, the patients are brought through like cars on an assembly line. We do not get opportunity to really get to know them as the people they are. Only brief pieces of chatter here and there as they are processed through. Interestingly, once we drape them, their faces are covered for sterility, but they only receive conscious sedation, so they are still wide awake and right there in the room, AWARE. Yet, all of us begin to chat with each other as we work on the patient’s dialysis access like mechanics on a car. We totally stop addressing the patient until there will be pain because of what we are doing to them, to warm them. Then we cause our pain as we fix, apologize and continue our banter. After reading about your REAP program, I feel nauseated by our behavior at work.


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