Wednesday, June 4, 2014


"Nobody is here because they dreamed of doing this": On Training to Be a Nurse Aide

Eli Saslow at the Washington Post has a great long piece following a young woman named Tereza who, desperate for employment, enrolls in a crash course to become a certified nursing aide: this is the fastest-growing job in America and one of the most tiring and thankless; the majority of new hires burn out within a year, making "the place of opportunity [] in fact the place of last resort." As the class unfolds it becomes clear that no one is particularly confident about the training or the demands of the profession or the system that necessitates it. About Tereza's teacher:

[S]he had spent the last days wondering whom this training system served. The students, who would make $8 an hour in jobs they weren't prepared for? Their future employers, who would be hiring novice workers? The 72 million aging Americans, who would spend their last years living through these caretakers' mistakes?

"What can I do?" Morris said, and she had already made up her mind. She had another class to teach in a few days, and then another after that. America's elderly needed caretakers. America's unemployed needed jobs.


9 Comments / Post A Comment


Holy crap is that depressing. Brings back all the college summers I spent working in a nursing home as a nurse's aide. Back then, you could work for a few months without any certification.
Worst job ever.
It's a travesty that we pay people so poorly to look after our elderly and supposed loved ones. The job is incredibly physically demanding - you have to bodily pick people up and out of bed into wheelchairs, or from wheelchairs to the toilet (if you're lucky and they are still continent).
And its hell on the elderly. There they are, bodies no longer functioning, minds often going, but not gone enough to not care. The people hired to care for you often have good intentions, but are exhausted, over worked and underpaid, and don't have any special training to deal with the psychological needs. I remember the intense shame in elderly people's faces when they were incontinent and I, some stupid teenager, would have to clean them up.
I hope I die before I ever get to that.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@BoatGirl "It's a travesty that we pay people so poorly to look after our elderly and supposed loved ones." This, so much. I was raised in a culture where children were expected to take care of their elderly parents, even though in North America it's more common to put people into care if they need it or if the family isn't willing. There's this weird mix of apathy and duty that seems to be brewing, and it's not beneficial at all to the elderly. I get that it's a job that very few people want to do. It's hard. It's stressful. It takes a certain kind of mindset to be able to care for others all day and get so little in return.
I just don't understand how it pays so little. Other jobs where there is high demand for employees but a small pool of people willing to do the work actually pay pretty well, from what I've heard, regardless of how highly trained or specialized you'd need to be to get hired. We're talking about health care here. Nursing aides work so hard and yet get so little income and respect compared to other people who work in their field. It sucks.

up cubed

@BoatGirl I think a bit part of the low-pay is that people don't plan financially to be institutionalized, but society doesn't really want to think about it, plan for it, or pay for it either. There aren't that many systems to keep people safely at home or in semi-independent living, since Medicare doesn't cover that as readily/easily as nursing homes. Even if a person's child is caring for them in their old age, it is very hard (and can lead to burn-out) if the parent isn't able to do the activities of daily living.


@Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that) Read Thomas Frank's article about David Graeber on Salon. Graeber is an anthropologist who teaches at the London School of Economics who coined the term "bullshit jobs" and the article is about why those jobs that are so incredibly important - caring for the elderly and children, etc . - are so horrible paid. Basically, the more your job helps actual people, the less money you'll make.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@commanderbanana I just saw that on the Billfold! It's completely true, and pretty sad. All of the wrong people are taking home really large salaries, and there's nothing we can do about it.


Thanks for sharing the article which is a inspiring one
BSF Recruitment ASI and Head Constable


@manohar413 DIAF.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Oh just FYI: Do not read the comments on that Post piece. They're almost more upsetting than the piece itself.


@Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that) Seriously. I know a lot of people are doing the knee-jerk "that would never happen to ME because REASONS" because they're terrified of imagining themselves in Tereza's position and I think deep down they know that is this shitty, safety-net-free economy, not only can that happen to them, but because we've internalized this boot-strap mentality, that if it does, it's nobody's fault but their own.
Hence the "but she smoked a CIGARETTE," therefore she deserves to live like this! She has a TATTOO, therefore she deserves to live this!" because they're trying to scrape up rationalizations for why it'll never be them.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account