A couple of weeks ago, Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh angered nurses from around the country when she suggested they spent some of their time on duty playing cards. She said this while denouncing a bill on the floor that would require mandatory, uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for these caregivers.. Walsh says she represents a district with many hospitals with less than 25 beds and small staffs, and she felt the breaks may not be necessary or possible and the patients should be put “first and foremost.”
Maureen has now learned hell hath no fury like a bunch of nurses scorned.
Let me remind you this was said by a state senator as she discussed a bill that only pertained to her state. Do most of us even know what our own state senators are saying about bills in Montgomery right now?
But this went viral faster than ridiculously unnecessary cases of measles did in communities with a bunch of unvaccinated morons. (In the immortal words of Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad,” “Yeah, science, bitch!” Maybe y’all should look into that. But that’s a different column.)
I was hyperaware of Sen. Walsh’s statements because I have many friends and family members who are nurses and my social media feed was absolutely taken over with delightful, smartass memes of nurses playing cards while delivering babies and assisting in surgeries. And then there was my personal favorite: Florence Nightingale dealing blackjack.
Walsh has reportedly received thousands of playing cards from nurses around the country and an online petition has garnered even more signatures demanding that she shadow a nurse on a 12-hour shift so she can witness firsthand that there ain’t a whole lot of canasta being played. To her credit, Walsh has said she is willing to do just that.
This whole episode reminded me though just how badass nurses really are. In more ways than one.
First, as a professional band of sisters and brothers. They did not let a comment by some random state senator who most folks outside of the state of Washington have never heard of slide. Not at all.
And that made me realize just how slack we have been in the media as our profession has been under assault nearly every single day for the last four years, not just from state senators, but from mayors of tiny, little towns all over the country to U.S. senators and cabinet secretaries and of course, the person who started it all, the president of the United States, who says “fake news” about a million times a day. Now there I go with some fake news of my own; it’s not technically that many times. I think some non-fake news organization calculated it and said he says it on average of once a day.
And even though it seems like way more, I have not shared one single snarky meme of Walter Cronkite or Woodward and Bernstein saying things like, “If you could please excuse me, Carl, I have some news to go make up!” Nor have I seen any.
And we haven’t had any mass effort to send our newspapers to the White House with the word “REAL” spelled out on the front page in a mixture of blood, ink and tears.
About the only thing I’ve done is dress up as “fake news” for Halloween in some sort of passive show of protest and irony, and even that was pretty lame.
My media brethren, we suck.
But aside from being really great at viral public relations campaigns, nurses are gods and goddesses in much more important ways.
First of all, they deal with the fluids and feces, abscesses and impactions and many, many other unpleasant things — sometimes involving massive amounts of pus — of absolute strangers. Not to mention they have to listen to said strangers complain about their ailments ad nauseum. I don’t mind wiping the butt of anyone I love or listening to the long and harrowing tales of my great-aunt Myrtle’s knee and hip replacements, but good God, I would rather be thrown in a fire-ant bed than do it for strangers.
Of course, not all nurses have to deal with random fluids of the unknown from the unknown, but they would if they had to. And that’s the difference between nurses and most other folks. It’s a calling.
Sure, there are some duds who have had that calling too, but that’s true in any profession.
But if you have ever had the unfortunate experience of caring for a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness you know just how important and (literally) lifesaving it is to have a kind, compassionate, kickass nurse.
My sister-in-law is one of these amazing nurses.
A few years ago, she was working in ICU when one of my dear friend’s fathers fell ill very unexpectedly and ultimately passed away within hours. I had never seen her in action before that night. But I watched her run around and tend to a bunch a different squealing monitors and moaning patients and administer medicines and deal with doctors, and then in the midst of all of this controlled chaos, she stopped to provide comforting words and advice to my friend and her family members who were about to face one of the hardest moments of their lives. And then she did it over and over again in one shift. And for many different families comprised of complete strangers.
It was such a beautiful display of amazing skill, quick decision-making, compassion and grace under pressure. I think it is what’s called being a nurse.
She became a rock star (even more than she already was) in my eyes that night. And I can assure you she and her colleagues did not play one single hand of gin rummy while any of this was going down.
Obviously, the statement Sen. Walsh made was completely ridiculous. And I am sure she regrets it now. But sometimes when goofy things like this happen it reminds us to appreciate the underappreciated.
So, thank you, nurses. You rock!
But, I do have some advice for my fellow non-nurses: Never, ever, ever, ever go out with a group of them, have a few drinks and ask them what’s the grossest thing they have ever seen. Just trust me on this one.
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