The pandemic has the merit of having highlighted the importance of the work of the nursing staff in the various strata of the trades, in particular that which consists in assisting and accompanying non-autonomous people by taking care of their vital needs, a trade in Quebec, they are called “beneficiary attendant”. An invisible virus suddenly made their work visible, revealing the intrinsic interdependence of the human condition.
Guardian angels suddenly became incarnate in public space with bodies and voices: bodies, predominantly female and with frequently dark skin, which gave a concrete image of daily tasks providing respect and dignity to vulnerable people ; voices to testify to the harmful working conditions in which these tasks were carried out, particularly in CHSLDs and residences for seniors. Thousands of Quebecers have been made aware of their low-paid but now essential work, as well as the usefulness of all these ordinarily invisible trades, which nevertheless form the continuous fabric of daily life, making it possible to “maintain, perpetuate and fix our world “(Joan Tronto, A vulnerable world. For a care policy, La Découverte, 1993).
The current crisis has led many to question the values underlying our model of society based on effective individualism and to give more consideration to what comes from a more relational perspective of human existence, especially that of the care provided to “our seniors”. The hour for salary recognition and reclassification seems to have finally come!
While vulnerability and “care” are in the spotlight and a recruitment campaign is in full swing, would it not be appropriate for this professional recognition to be accompanied by a change of name? this job in order to replace the cold and technocratic title of “attendant for beneficiaries” with something more embodied and explicitly linked to the care associated with life support? Camus said that to mis name things was to add to the misfortune of the world. Language is also a means of making reality visible, for example the word feminicide which has just entered the dictionary.
In France, the title nursing assistant is used to designate this job, a title more imbued with humanity than that of beneficiary attendant. Moreover, for the first time in the history of this country, Caroline Fiat, a nursing assistant, was elected as a member of the National Assembly (La France insoumise), thus giving a voice to these shadow professions . In a recent discussion on this subject with friends, some also went for additional suggestions, such as life care attendant, caretaker of the frail, help or life guide … Life, is it not what was Forgotten by the pace and optimization of Lean Management that has raged in recent years, among others in CHSLDs? In the coming weeks, 10,000 Quebeckers who have responded to the Prime Minister’s call will begin a new career with vulnerable seniors. Shouldn’t we take advantage of this exceptional context to take a step further in recognizing their profession and the skills it underlies by finding a new expression to qualify them? A name that does justice to the work of these people and to the humanity of their task?