The Infamous Words “Nurses probably play cards…”
It’s no new news that Maureen Walsh made her infamous statement about nurses having too much time on their hands that they’re “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” We’ve all heard about it and we’re all responding. Memes are going up left and right and people poking fun of the statement, but the realty is the statement was indeed very offensive to the entire nursing profession.
I’ve had many people argue the context in which the statement was made matters, but I’ve got news for them. It doesn’t matter what context that statement was made in because when people all over the United States hear that nurses are playing cards & have too much time on their hands, we’re in trouble. Let me tell you why:
Words are powerful. With the media & social media relaying & broadcasting news all over the world within minutes of events happening, every single person can hear & know what’s going on. Whether news is true or not, it’s released into the universe for all to do whatever they want with it.
Every single person who viewed, heard, or saw the statement made by Maureen Walsh were either patients at the time or will potentially be a patient in a hospital at some point in their life. This is why broadcasting medical news relating to patient care is so powerful & scary. It will immediately affect the views & opinions of those receiving it which can be both good and bad. So when Maureen Walsh gets on TV and makes a sarcastic remark insinuating “nurses are probably playing cards” instead of working, it does damage.
It Paints the Picture for ALL Nurses
It’s doesn’t matter the context in which the statement was made because the people listening have NO clue what a critical access hospital is, nor do they care. All they hear is that nurses play cards all day and are essentially piddling around with their time instead of tending to patients. So every late med, every delayed call bell response, every difficult family member request, every “fill in the blank” that isn’t timely will now leave the impression in someone’s head that “they must messing around & not doing their job because that’s what they do.” Our #1 goal is to build rapport (trust) from the beginning of our care and a blanket statement like this interferes greatly. This not only impacts nurses, but the entire health care profession in my honest opinion.
Again, this is why context of Maureen’s words don’t matter. She simply stated she was trying to make the point that if the bill she was trying to amend affected critical access hospitals, it would cost those already “red zoned” hospitals more money when she felt it shouldn’t apply to them because they have more “down time” essentially. If I’m being quite honest, I don’t even care if nurses at critical access hospitals are sitting at the front desk picking their nose and playing cards because they don’t have any patients there. You want to know why? Because If they did have an emergency and had patients to take care of in those “middle of nowhere” areas, they are skilled, equipped, & ready to help save their lives or stabilize them and get them to an appropriate center. That’s what critical access hospitals do. Am I saying that they sit around and do nothing? No, absolutely not. I’m just painting the picture of the vital role that ALL nurses play in saving lives of others, regardless of the facility they work at. I can also assure you they don’t sit around and play cards.
From a Critical Access Hospital Nurse:
“We Educate the population. Critical Access Hospitals are vital connections in rural communities. CAH are places of care, of support, of teaching. Public health is the nurse’s platform. Community wellbeing is the nurse’s scope.”
Senator Walsh’s statement:
“By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you those nurses probably do get breaks,” Walsh said on the Senate floor last week. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.“
Senator Walsh’s statements days later:
“I want to offer my heartfelt apologies to those I offended with my comments on the Senate floor last Tuesday. I was tired, and in the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context – but still they crossed the line,” Walsh said in a statement on Monday.
“I really don’t believe nurses at our critical access hospitals spend their days playing cards, but I did say it, and I wish I could reel it back” Walsh said.
What Do Nurses Really Do?
Again, it doesn’t matter WHAT the story was about or the context in which it was said because all of the world heard. All of the patients in the hospital heard. All of the people going in for surgery this week heard. All of the people in the world who will one day be patients heard and she can’t take those words back from them. Some people can discern that her words were careless and untrue, but many will use that statement against a profession that is already fighting against abuse, disrespect, and safe staffing ratios.
We already spend our days dealing with difficult patients & family members who have no clue how hard we work and what we do. We play the role of meal server, environmental services, secretary, case management, scheduler, drug dealer, AND nurse. We don’t pee. We don’t eat. We miss holidays with our family. We sleep as much as we can at home after getting home late from trying to safely “pass on” an end of shift crisis (which always happen). It’s A LOT.
Most of us leave with the anxiety of wondering “did I miss anything?” We care so deeply for our patients and want to do everything that we can do and “sacrificing self” is a very common characteristic of a nurse. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
•When requests are delayed, it wasn’t because we decided to go get something to eat.
•When discharge papers aren’t prompt, it wasn’t because we were in the back playing “Go-Fish.”
•When your meal tray was late, we were off chasing one down for you, sometimes searching the entire hospital for an extra tray on a cart because the ball was dropped in an area out of our control.
•When your medication wasn’t on time, that’s one of the first rules of nursing we’re taught, “no late medication.” I can almost GUARANTEE you that something that someone’s LIFE took priority and we simply didn’t have enough hands to get to you sooner.
•It’s hard for us to explain a lot of what goes on to our patients because we’d be violating HIPPA, but if people only knew the stuff that nurses dealt with on a daily basis and the fires we’re putting out and the lives we’re saving while “__________” was late, I think many would have a lot more respect, patience, and understanding for us.
Nurses Do the Best With the Cards They’re Dealt
We don’t just sit around hoping things will change so we can better serve our patients. We are constantly speaking up and advocating for safer staffing ratios. We know how hard this job can be, so it’s not uncommon you see a nurse and his or her possie coming in to help a situation out. What’s meant to be a one person assignment is in most cases a 2-3 person task. You can’t put an accurate “difficulty” number on a patient every shift. We call this “acuity” in the nursing world. We get assigned patients based on acuity.
A charge nurse could assign a patient to a nurse with a low difficulty score, but the minute that that patient goes into cardiac arrest, falls, starts to bleed, has an abnormal surgery complication, or goes “down hill” in some shape or form, that “difficulty score” automatically goes up in the middle of a shift with 3-6 other patients to be taken care of and we can’t “give away” or trade our team. Wouldn’t that be nice!
There’s also no guarantee that those other patient’s “difficulty scores” will remain consistent either. In my experience, they don’t. This is why we don’t believe in evaluating patient assignments per number-based acuity evals. Regardless of “difficulty” a nurse should only have max 4 patients on a med-surg unit. I can’t speak for the other specialties, but this gives you an idea of what goes on with patient assignments. Have you ever asked your nurse how many patients they have?
Simply put, if we have more patients to take care of and things go south with even just one of them, that’s less attention on the other patients we’re assigned and more life saving attention to the ones going south. If we could signal our cloned licensed robot to go check on our other patients we would would, but we don’t have that. We don’t even have real extra bodies half the time. So if you see a nurse anywhere in the world “paying cards in the back” you should start rejoicing because I will assure you that only means 1 thing: Jesus must have come back and saved us all!
“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”
While it’s impossible to take back the words that have infiltrated the minds of current & potential patients all over the world, we CAN continue to be the strong profession that we are, HELP EACH OTHER OUT, and unite in every way possible on our shifts. These are ALL OF OUR patients and we will love and serve them how we know best.
I am hoping Maureen Walsh get’s the message from all of the cards & tough love nurses are sending her way! My hope is that she uses her skills & platform to advocate for a profession who could greatly benefit from her knowledge & position to make a positive impact for a profession who wants to do nothing more than SAFELY serve and take care of this country and it’s people well.