Welcome to the first in CBC’s series of caregiver profiles, where we’ll feature Q&As with care workers all over the country about the rewards and challenges of their jobs.
In today’s profile, we’re getting to know Anna Hernandez, a care worker based in Pensacola, Florida. After nearly 22 years in the business, Hernandez has learned some important lessons about self-care and keeping her spirits up. Keep reading to learn more about her journey.
Coalition For Better Care: How long have you worked as a professional home care giver?Anna Hernandez: I started caregiving in 2001, so it will be 22 years in the new year. I started my own caregiving company in January 2022, called Heart 2 Heart In-Home Care LLC.
CBC: Tell us more about your journey to starting your own business.
AH: I went from home health aide to certified nursing assistant to phlebotomist to medication technician to business owner. It has been a lot of hard work, not easy at all, but I have a million amazing, beautiful, loving, and hilarious cherished memories.
You can’t heal and take care of others if your body, mind, or soul are out of shape themselves!
I started out as a home health aide in Tallahassee, FL, caring for many different patients from 2001 to 2009. In 2011, I graduated as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and phlebotomist from Lively Technical and spent two years working as a phlebotomist and health educator at WCRx Pharmacy.
I have worked as a private in-home care CNA for many families, as well as a CNA and med tech for many nursing facilities. In 2022, I started my own company, and I now have five employees on my staff. I’m only taking private-pay patients at this time, but I am working toward getting all the licenses needed to be able to care for insurance and Medicaid patients.
CBC: How did you originally get into the home-care profession?
AH: It was kinda funny how I even got into nursing. I was actually a performing arts instructor, teaching acting, music, and dance to elderly and disabled adults. Some of my students’ families began to ask me to care for them outside of the classroom, so I said “sure, why not?” And I fell in love with caregiving! I still incorporate music and dance/yoga/stretching into my care to this day. A lot of my patients love it when I stretch with them or sing to them.
CBC: What do you find most rewarding about care work?
AH: The most rewarding part is bringing someone who is ill and bedridden to a place of optimum health where they are talking, eating, and laughing. It’s an amazing feeling to see their happiness and vitality return. It’s also rewarding to comfort someone when they are leaving this life and to be with them in those final moments and make them the most comfortable that I can, so they can cross over in peace. It’s just an unforgettable feeling, something you never forget.
It has been a lot of hard work, not easy at all, but I have a million amazing, beautiful, loving, and hilarious cherished memories.
CBC: What is one thing you wish more people knew about caregiving and its challenges?
AH: What I wish more people knew about caregiving is that it’s not as easy as it looks. Most caregivers are very strong individuals who are nurturing by nature, so they will be smiling and always there to heal and help. But it’s important to note that the caregivers themselves also need care and love and a support system. They need a break sometimes, especially when a family member or close friend is the caregiver. We are only human and need to take self-care days or trips sometimes to recharge our batteries, both physically and mentally. Also, please be kind to the CNAs in the hospitals; it is a lot of work and often a thankless job.
CBC: What’s your favorite pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired or down?
AH: My favorite pick-me-ups are mani/pedis, coffee shops, and engaging in anything creative. Also, cuddling my dogs, and shopping therapy never hurts!
Caregivers themselves also need care and love and a support system.
CBC: What advice would you offer to other people in the home care work space?
AH: My advice to other caregivers would be eat healthy, exercise, work out, do some type of yoga and/or meditation, and do things or hobbies that you love to do outside of work. Spend some time in nature or whatever brings you peace. Because you can’t heal and take care of others if your body, mind, or soul are out of shape themselves! Try to stay strong mentally, physically, and spiritually, so you can be the best version of yourself and offer it to the patients you are caring for. I try to live this way myself, and it has really helped me stay balanced, happy, and energetic in my care!
CBC: What are your hopes for the next part of your journey?
AH: I want to keep my current practices but further expand my nursing care to include more holistic/homeopathic care, such as massage therapy and reiki, and my own line of herbal tonics, body oils, and healing juices.