I resumed working, now as a practical nurse with all its expectations and responsibilities―honestly, not every one of which I met. I briefly worked at a couple of long-term-care facilities, one that did business in an aged structure in South Portland, the other a unit of a luxurious “retirement community” on the coastline of the town of Scarborough. Neither worked out.
I then settled into a long-term-care facility in Westbrook, where I primarily passed medications on a locked dementia floor, many of whose residents had Alzheimer’s Disease. There, I cared for residents who covered a spectrum of diagnoses and behaviors: calm, cooperative people; people who mumbled to themselves as they constantly paced the sleeping pods and common areas; people who fought with other residents and exploded at the slightest provocation; people who refused medications; fall-risk residents who set off piercing alarms as they rose out of boredom from seats and beds; bedridden people in tearful pain, contending with severe pressure sores and praying to die. Every other week a young man arrived on the floor, and with his guitar, untrained voice, and evangelical bent he performed creaky gospel songs for the residents.
I worked the swing shift. Every shift began and ended with the tedium of accounting for the opiates in the medication cart. On my feet throughout the shift, I’d drag home through the often-foggy New England shoreline night exhausted. I lost ten pounds during this experience, and quit―even eschewing a small but obviously thoughtful going-away ceremony with cake―after nine months. I then worked at a family-practice clinic that employed four physicians―here, as in Alamosa, working more as a medical assistant than a practical nurse. I vastly preferred this to working in a long-term-care facility. However, I never recaptured in Maine the pleasure and rewards I felt delivering healthcare in the San Luis Valley.