Senator Maureen Walsh of the 16th Legislative District in the state of Washington recently made some remarks regarding Nurses. When discussing a potential exemption from meal break requirements for nurses, the Senator stated that nurses at smaller hospitals “probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” The outcry has been significant as nurses around the country have spoke out regarding the work demands on nurses.
The national healthcare debate has caused healthcare to be an electric topic of discussion coast to coast. With much of the discussion on the national level, the second thought are those who do the work day in and out, such as the nurses. Nursing is one of the most difficult positions in healthcare. The American Association of Colleges of Nurses posted at length regarding the nursing shortage that is currently facing the industry and projected into the future. In the article, several studies cited nursing levels and care as a key issue for patient outcomes. The Nurses Service Organization (NSO) has an article discussing how fatigue in nursing directly correlates to patient safety. The article discusses the consecutive 12 hour shifts that many nurses work and the sleep depravation that is reported as part of these shifts.
These statements by the Senator highlight the misunderstanding about healthcare with leaders across the nation. Leadership is so focused on making healthcare a political issue that those on the front line of the industry are often forgotten. Nurses aren’t simply sitting around playing cards. In previous experience, there have been countless times I’ve observed nurses in various settings and I have never seen nurses playing cards. Aside from taking care of patients, mandatory training and many other requirements, many of them miss breaks, meals and do it willingly to be the absolute best in healthcare professionals. So instead of dismissing the important work that these nurses do, maybe leadership should take a step back and truly appreciate those that are on the front lines of the healthcare industry.