Frontline health care workers have always been especially vulnerable to the perpetual tides of health care 'reform,' but in the mid-1990s in New York City, they bore the brunt of change in a new way. They were obliged to take on additional work, take lessons in recalibrating their attitudes, and, when those steps failed to bring about the desired improvements, take advantage of training programs that would ostensibly lead to better jobs. Such health care workers not only became targets of pro-market and restructuring policies but also were blamed for many of the problems created by those policies, from the deteriorating conditions of patient care to the financial vulnerability of entire institutions.
In Never Good Enough, Ariel Ducey describes some of the most heavily funded training programs, arguing that both the content of many training and education programs and the sheer commitment of time they require pressure individual health care workers to compensate for the irrationalities of America's health care system, for the fact that caring labor is devalued, and for the inequities of an economy driven by the relentless creation of underpaid service jobs. In so doing, the book also analyzes the roles that unions-particularly SEIU 1199 in New York-and the city's academic institutions have played in this problematic phenomenon.
In her thoughtful and provocative critique of job training in the health care sector, Ariel Ducey explores the history and the extent of job training initiatives for health care workers and lays out the political and economic significance of these programs beyond the obvious goal of career advancement. Questioning whether job training improves either the lives of workers or the quality of health care, she explains why such training persists, focusing in particular on the wide scope of its "emotional" benefits. The book is based on Ducey's three years as an ethnographer in several hospitals and in-depth interviews with key players in health care training. It argues that training and education cannot be a panacea for restructuring-whether in the health care sector or the economy as a whole.