Through interviews and original photography, PHI is working with direct care workers nationwide to document their stories and share their ideas for transforming jobs in long-term care. This interview is with Musa Manneh, a Certified Nursing Assistant at Transitions Lifecare in Raleigh, NC. He has been a direct care worker for 18 years.
ON WHY HE DECIDED TO BECOME A CNA
“I used to work in management for retail and restaurants. After leaving one job, I helped my friend as his private caregiver while he was traveling. When we returned from travel, management at his facility encouraged me to go into caregiving. They supported me as I became a CNA, and I worked there for five years on the floor as a CNA and Med Tech. Then I met someone from hospice who recommended that I move to that field, and I have been working for hospice ever since. It is a totally different experience going into homes to help terminally ill people. I thought it was going to be hard for me at first, but as time went on, I felt more comfortable and enjoyed being able to help in this way.”
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
“Working in hospice, I have direct communication with both the patients and their families, and I enjoy providing support for both. I feel privileged to get to know a lot of families and help them. Sometimes families get completely agitated when a loved one is terminally ill, and sometimes they get so confused. My presence there brings them comfort. You teach them how to care for a dying loved one. You become bonded with the family. I know how much of a difference I am making. But emotionally, it is very challenging. Some months I’ve had three patients that pass. You just want to help them to be comfortable through this journey. But the grief takes a toll on you.”
“Sometimes families get completely agitated when a loved one is terminally ill, and sometimes they get so confused. My presence there brings them comfort. You teach them how to care for a dying loved one.”
HOW CULTURALLY COMPETENT PROVIDERS ADDRESS DIVERSE CLIENT NEEDS
“Every month, Transitions LifeCare conducts in-service trainings for us on different topics, and they provide a very good multi-cultural conference each year. In hospice, we see patients from many different cultures, and this training helps staff learn about and become sensitive to other cultures so they can have a better understanding when providing care. For example, I am Muslim and from West Africa, so I participate on a panel and present on my culture so aides can learn what to expect if they happen to have a Muslim patient. This has proven to be very successful and makes a big difference.”
ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19
“Prior to the pandemic, we were seeing about six patients a day. After the lockdown started, we scaled back on taking new patients to reduce risk and some patients discontinued services out of caution. Now I see two to four depending on the day. So I worry about my job security with fewer patients. I also worry about the risk of contracting the virus and, God forbid, spreading it to my kids. Luckily, we are fully stocked with PPE. When I get to a patient’s home, I wear a mask and eye goggles until I leave and wash my hands more frequently than ever. Even though I worry, this is my job, and you have to go out there and help. It’s a blessing to go to work so you can provide for your family. I will always say that this job is not about money— it’s about you working with your heart. But you also have to pay your bills.”
The Direct Care Worker Story Project aims to enhance the visibility of this workforce, amplify its voices, and draw on workers’ unique wisdom to inform policy and practice. The Project seeks to address the lack of representation of direct care workers in public narratives and ensure images used to depict long-term care work are grounded in workers’ and clients’ real experiences. If you’re interested in sharing your story as a direct care worker, please email us at info@PHInational.org.