This documentary opens with warm applause. Those who, during the first weeks of the Covid epidemic, thanked caregivers every evening for their commitment. And which, overnight, stopped, bringing the white coats back to their anonymity and their solitude in the face of a degraded healthcare system.
Among them, nurses. The profession numbers 600,000 people in France, the vast majority of them women. Little visible but always present with the sick, they have “life in their hands, from the first cry, to the last breath”. “I believe that to survive in this profession you have to be a saint or a madwoman, it is a very difficult profession,” one of them already said at the beginning of the century.
A profession that appeared with the law of 1905
Based on archive images, director Mathilde Damoisel goes back to the origins of this profession, officially appearing with the law of 1905. Separation of Churches and State obliges, the nuns who devoted their lives to the sick fade away. for the benefit of professionals, trained and soon to graduate. Essential skills including those who would soon be nicknamed “the white angels” would be used on the front of the First World War, then in all the tragedies that would punctuate the 20th century.
And yet. Readily described as heroic, nurses will long remain seen as simple performers by the hierarchy. Albert Calmette, the inventor of the vaccine against tuberculosis, did not hesitate to warn these “collaborators” against “the error of stepping out of (their) role and believing (themselves) sufficiently informed about the things of medicine.” Above all, stay in your place.
A feeling of relegation from which French nurses, paid below the average OECD salary, continue to suffer, even though their field of expertise has continued to expand. Despite the somewhat heavy lyricism of the commentary, this documentary pays them a beautiful and fitting tribute.