By guest blogger, Victoria McCaffrey, student at Hillsdale College
Last summer I spent the majority of my time either working on my certified nurses’s aid class or working with the elderly themselves. I cannot think of a more rewarding way to have spent my break. Caring for those in need—not just physically in need, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life. Listening to words of wisdom, and even the occasional temper tantrum, provided hours of reflection. I loved hearing the stories of men and women who were once children, lovers, parents, friends, and neighbors.
But it was not all fun and games.
Yes, I do realize that dressing, cleaning, and changing briefs is not everybody’s calling. It is neither glamorous nor lovely. By the end of each day, I looked pretty disheveled, from my frazzled hair to my wrinkled scrubs. But one amazing thing I realized while wearing my scrubs was the way people treated me differently. It seems that Americans do tend to notice the scrub uniform and treat their scrubbed-in neighbors with a great deal of respect– something that is not always practiced in other cultures.
This phenomenon lead me to wonder why it is that scrubs command such respect. It is not the uniform itself, I concluded, but what it entails, which is a tradition of compassion and kindness attributed to the women, and occasionally men, who don them. It was under Florence Nightingale’s influence when women began to assume nursing responsibilities. At the time it was considered revolutionary, but it soon became apparent that women were best suited for this field. By the Civil War, American women were the traditional care-takers for the sick and dying*, and their kindness and gentle spirits became irreplaceable in the medical field.
Today, CNAs have assumed many roles of traditional nursing, especially roles that entail physical labor such as lifting and bathing (nurses themselves are often swamped with a plethora of paperwork). Women still dominate the nursing and CNA scenes and despite the controversies that currently surround women in the workplace, nurses and CNAs seem to be exempt from the often debated role of female workers.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that women have been accepted in the nursing field for well over a century. Or perhaps it is due to the respect we have for those who spend their lives ensuring quality living for others. But in the end I think it is that the love, the gentleness, and the compassion of these women simply touching the lives of their patients and families. I am so thankful to be a part of this workforce, and I hope that other working women, either in an office, a school, or any other career of their choosing, can be appreciated for the time and effort they put forth as well.