In Praise of Essential Workers
We have been hearing a lot lately about essential workers. There is much praise for the front-line heroes who protect and save lives. You know the ones: the doctors, nurses, and EMTs. They are the ones who wear spiffy uniforms with official badges and command authority and respect due to their advanced degrees or specific training.
That is all good and well deserved. But there are other essential workers who rarely get mentioned, or even spoken to. I do not mean they are more essential, I mean there are more workers who are essential than we usually notice or acknowledge.
No one is unnecessary
If any workers were nonessential, their jobs wouldn’t exist. It’s a simple fact: If a company or institution could make do without hiring you, they would.
As a small business owner, I’ve had to teach basic economics to a few bad employees while explaining why they were expendable. Employers don’t create jobs as a public service to the lazy, incompetent, or unreliable. Rather, they do the math and invest in human capital in order to provide more goods or services to meet a demand. They hope to be repaid in loyalty from workers and profit from clients.
Employers only hire people to do tasks they cannot or will not do. That is Economics 101. In the case of hospitals and medical offices, the jobs employers can’t do create openings for brilliant doctors and capable nurses who have the skills the nice folks in human resources do not. Equally importantly, HR also puts out the call to fill the jobs that employers won’t do. The medical community needs to hire good people to clean rooms, stock closets, and deliver food, for example.
All are awesome
I am in awe of the doctors, nurses, and medical students who diagnosed and treated my husband’s atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome at a university hospital. And I am glad they were righteously rewarded with big salaries, assigned parking spaces, and bright futures.
But I am even more amazed by the janitors, laundry workers, and food service personnel who showed up each day and night. They were paid hourly, rode public transportation, and worked extra shifts just to pay the rent.
Behind the scenes
While the medical staff starred in the real-life drama we were experiencing, a supporting cast provided significant care as well. An efficient and fearless woman marched in each morning to tidy up the room and scrub down the bathroom. A young man silently replenished the linen closet across the hall after midnight while the patients and most of the city slept. And a voice on the other end of the phone greeted me by name when I called to place my husband’s meal orders.
These workers made sure our basic needs were met while the doctors diagnosed my husband’s extraordinary needs. They were hardworking, capable, and reliable, and just as essential to his recovery as the specialists with the fancy credentials. And they were generally more fun to talk with, which is a rare and essential quality in critical care.
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