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More than essential

More than essential
More than essential
Dr. Wayne Willis

Who are these “essential” workers?  If you are not deemed one, does that mean you are unimportant to the organization, that you should worry about job security, that you are expendable, surplus, an extra, a frill? If you work hard and are a team player and do a good job, being declared non-essential could make you want to declare back, “What am I, chopped liver?”

“Essential” may not be the best choice of words. I understand the need for businesses to designate which workers they absolutely must have to keep the doors open. I understand having to trim payroll when the economy goes bad or the company’s bottom line goes south.

Interestingly, since the pandemic, essential is a word also used euphemistically to refer to employees who cannot do their work remotely. They have to be on site.

I worked for years alongside Alice, an excellent nursing assistant in a hospital burn unit.

Decades earlier, on Thanksgiving eve, 1962, Alice awoke to flames engulfing her house. Badly burned, after rescuing her three children, she was flown to a hospital far from home. Discharged three months later, she returned many times for plastic and reconstructive surgery.

When I met her, Alice was working in, of all places, our burn unit. Patients and their families looked at her badly-scarred face and instantly knew she understood their suffering and fear.

She would sometimes buy a muffin or a newspaper or a flower for a badly burned child’s parent. “I remember how much it means, a long way from home, when someone is kind to you,” she explained. “I start every morning by thanking God for another day. The angels surely have been watching over me.”

For any place touting compassionate health care, having at least one Alice on the unit is quintessential.