Before I start, I want to state the reason for my writing is, not to bring shame or judgment on Senator Walsh but, to provide information on something I believe is important.
I have been thinking a lot, as have other nurses, about the recent comments made by Senator Maureen Walsh. Since then, there have been several brilliant memes I came across, that have made me laugh out loud. The thought itself -of nurses playing cards at work- is ludicrous. At first, when I heard the statement that was made, I thought there had to be more to it. Reading it was one thing, but to watch the video and witness her attitude and tone of voice was another- I couldn’t believe my ears. I heard her referred to as the Joy Behar of 2019. Every nurse can recall Behar’s comment about nurses using doctors stethoscopes. Many may disagree that she doesn’t represent the general public, but regardless, her comment indeed confirmed the fact of how little people know about what nurses actually do, and you don’t have to work long in healthcare to realize this. I found it surprising to hear Senator Walsh’s mother is a nurse because anyone who knows or has lived with a nurse can understand and appreciate, despite the tremendous rewards, how grueling the profession can be.
If you are not a nurse, then you won’t completely get what it is about her comment that is so upsetting to over 3 million nurses.
Once when I heard a patient yelling for a nurse and wondered why is it that they never yell for a doctor? There is a reason why the patient screams “Nurse! Nurse!” when they need our attention. Why? This is because we are often the first point of contact for a patient in the hospital (unless registration beats us 😀 this is for the ED nurses). During their course of care, we are their advocate, comforter, caregiver and everything else in between.
Nurses wear many hats but get paid for wearing one. Not counting the things that are out of my scope of practice, I don’t use the phrase “it’s not my job” because there are many things I can do if I choose to. However, for the sake of time management and efficient care of my patients, I, practically speaking, can’t possibly do them all. I have to recognize the importance of teamwork and mutual respect among colleagues so we can give our patients the best care possible with the mindset of working together for their best possible outcome. However, if there is a need then I have to do what I must. Example – a CT scan for a stroke patient. I am not a transporter but you bet I have wheeled that stretcher to CT and back, despite my bad driving.
Nurses work long hours often standing, bending, pushing, pulling or lifting through most of these hours. One family member once said he watched me for just a few minutes and he got tired just watching me walk back and forth the number of times I did. There are days when I come home, I can feel my feet literally throbbing and aching because I literally maybe sat down twice in my 12 hr shift.
Nurses suffer from assault and occupational injury- too often. Violence towards nurses is a shameful and growing trend in healthcare, while back pain and back injuries are the most common occupational injuries among nurses due to the physically demanding nature of our job.
Electronic Documentation- can look to the patient like we are doing nothing but standing in front of a computer during this time. The truth is, however, that documentation takes a good portion of our time during the day as well, as we have to document accurately and in a timely fashion because every nurse knows that if it wasn’t documented, it wasn’t done (even though nurses do way more than we get/take credit for).
Meal/Proper Break times- are often inconsistent for many nurses. I remember in my career there were days I would work 14 hours and bring my lunch back home and my mom would exclaim, “what!!?? you didn’t eat your lunch?” to which I barely had the energy to explain or respond because my priorities at that moment were a warm shower and my bed and maybe some Tylenol for the headache. Breaks are essential for decreasing fatigue and improving the safety and quality of patient care. Why? Decreased fatigue means nurses are on alert and vigilant which in turn helps prevent errors. This is why over the years there has been constant lobbying for proper breaks and safe staffing for nursing.
Staffing ratios –Senator Walsh insinuated that nurses complain about being tired after working long hours but what she doesn’t get is that it isn’t the number of hours that’s the problem- it’s the workload in those number of hours. The population is sicker which means the acuity is higher, while the shortage of nurses worsens every year. In various studies and surveys, fatigue and understaffing are among the top reasons for burnout and many nurses leaving or considering leaving the profession. For nurses who work in understaffed conditions (and every nurse has been in this situation at one or multiple points in their career), one nurse often does the work of two and now, definitely, out goes the lunch and bathroom breaks.
Despite all (and sadly, these aren’t all) these obstacles and hurdles, as nurses, we love our patients and try to give them our very best. We put the needs of our patients above our own, and for myself, I can say I have to rely on God and His grace to get me through every day at work.
Nurses don’t work because we are looking or approval or accolades but it sure feels good to be appreciated and treated with respect.
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” Colossians 3:23
♥ Thank you to all my nurses out there. Know that you make a difference- all day, every day- in the lives of your patients. ♥