Richard Brookhiser on nursing

The last issue of National Review (LX 15) contained an essay on nurses in Richard Brookhiser's column "City Desk." Venturing out of his New York City apartment, he passes an outpatient KDU and takes a moment to reflect on the young people working there. Having suffered through testicular cancer, he is familiar with their work, and writes in conservative hagiography:
We are all good these days (haven't you heard?). Starlets cruise the plague and combat zones of the world for orphans of color. We are commanded to worry about polar bears and the ice-cap shortage. Habeas corpus will be extended to al-Qaeda and apes. But in the daily churn of ordinary life, these young men and women are committing more than their share of goodness.
He does well by male nurses, avoiding cliches about female nursing, although he does essentially refer to nurses as people who have just escaped welfare. This is a class matter. Nurses today are very touchy on this point, but there is no escaping that nursing still bears the marks of little white caps and skirts. Paul Fussell, in Class, A Guide Through the American Status System, calls nursing a job for female proles. Essentially any job, he says, in which you wear a uniform to work marks you as a prole. I find it hard to disagree with him. The years intervening 1983 and 2008 have served more to drag down medicine than to elevate nursing. The youngest doctors I work with seem almost wholly uneducated outside medicine and have poor command of language. As hospitalists, many of them are working for the man just as much as nurses and can be seen wearing around scrubs. Nurse practitioners often pointedly leave behind their scrubs for clothes sometimes dressier than the doctors, but still few are educated outside nursing and medicine. To my mind, among the youngest set in the hospital, the Physician Assistants tend to have the widest-ranging minds.

I'm sure most nurses today would take great offense at the suggestion that they are "working class," as we are all professionals now, as even Richard Brookhiser insists. But I'm afraid that's a sign that nursing still has a big inferiority complex.

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