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How nurses will evolve in the next decade


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A couple of recent studies are predicting that half of America will have diabetes by the year 2020. That’s…what, eight years away, right? (I’m not great with math.)

Half of America, diabetic; probably another third of the remaining population with pre-diabetes.

That’s going to have a huge impact on healthcare, not the least of which will be the physical toll on nurses and patient care aides as we lift larger and less-mobile people. (Note: I know that obesity is not, in and of itself, Concentrated Evil. I am not body-snarking here.)

So I got to thinking about it, and decided that our future is going to look weird.

In 20 years, it’ll be even easier than it is now to tell a person’s social class by his body habitus. Rich people will stay skinny, while poor people will get fatter. People with short commutes will look healthier than people with long commutes. The ideal, unattainable American physique will be that of a construction worker who has a 10-minute bike ride to work.

Nurses and other healthcare workers will adapt. It’ll be a change straight out of H. G. Wells, as we become more and more top-heavy and muscle-bound, with broader shoulders and larger forearms. Our heads will begin to look smaller as we evolve extra muscles in our upper bodies. If nurses marry other nurses and have children, eventually (in the year 2525?), we’ll form our own laboring subclass, with pit bull-like physiques and Hoyer lifts in our back pockets.

I envision a world where it’ll be simple to spot a nurse from a half mile away: She’ll be the striding, well-developed individual with the bowling ball-size biceps and the no-nonsense attitude. He’ll be the guy who can open any jar, tear any telephone book in half (if we still have telephone books) and help you change a flat tire by simply lifting up your car. We, the nurses and patient care aides of the New America, will form a flying wedge of competence. Our theme song will be the crackling, popping knees and elbows that come from our noble calling.

There’s only one problem: We will, as a profession, be separated into specially designed housing and commute to our jobs via modified public transport buses. Why? Because it’s difficult to use normal-human furniture and bus seats when you’re permanently bent over at a 45-degree angle with a chronically sore back.

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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