Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' 1 2006, page 32-48.
The orientation of social- and health helper assistant trainees towards caring and the contradictory demands of the work
In the article a life historical perspective is used to throw light on the subjective orientation towards a caring job by trainees in the basic social- and health education in Denmark. It is argued, that such a perspective exemplifies what the Norwegian sociologist, Kari Wærness, calls a “from below” perspective, which is necessary to investigate conditions and problems in the lowest ranged jobs in the social- and health sector.
The analysis of the interview with a young woman educating to be a social- and health helper assistant shows the connection between life history, choice of education and the subjective ascription of the meaning of the work. The job as a helper is a stable way to make a living and the education is first step in a career plan for the trainee. But it is also a way to get a personal importance, and in this respect helping others must be seen as part of a life historically acquired female socialization, which Lotte, the young woman, expresses in the interview. A pivotal point in her narrative is that she has experienced a lack of care herself, while she at the same time has experienced to gain recognition by caring for others.
In this way caring is, with a psychoanalytical term, subjectively charged in several ways for Lotte.
With an observation from Lotte’s practice at the home based care of the elderly as a point of departure, it is discussed how the job as a helper at once demands and neglects an orientation towards care by the helpers. Lotte has to read the needs of the very ill old man she visits in order to make him eat – and at the same time she has to engage only at the short period, she is at his home. She is not able to restrict her engagement and worries what will happen to the old man, when she is back to school.
The article concludes that women like Lotte, who has an orientation towards caring are put in a double bind situation by the demands of the work and its organization.
This dilemma raises the question of how the care orientation, which is the energy that leads the women to the work, can be considered in a public wage labor.