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Someone Said Nurses Spend Their Time Playing Cards — Let Me Tell You What Nursing Is.

Recently, a Senator said that nurses spend much of their time playing cards. At the time she was arguing against legislation that would require healthcare facilities to provide nurses with mandatory breaks and rest time, specifically at smaller hospitals.

Nurses everywhere groaned. The social media backlash has been fierce and fast. My own reaction was mostly frustrated laughter. It’s difficult to work in a profession that requires a high level of passion that is also frequently marginalized.

There is a fascination with stereotypical ideas of what the nursing profession is. You see the sexy nurse costumes at Halloween and minimizing the role of nurses on hospital-based shows (looking at you Grey’s). None of it is reality, but they are misconceptions that have withstood the test of time. Decisions about staffing ratios, compensation, and practice requirements are made by administrators and politicians who have no practical experience to justify their ability to make such nursing-specific judgments.

These constant frustrations added to a profession that requires strong and passionate people is a recipe for high emotional reactions. I’ll admit, some of the jokes in response have been hilarious. But some of the emerging rhetoric is hateful. Hate is not a part of nursing.

Let me tell you what nursing is…

Nursing is sacrifice. Sacrifice of a normal sleep schedule. Sacrifice of nights, weekends, and holidays with our families. Sacrifice of our mental space that fills with worries about our patients, even once they are out of our care.

Nursing is talent. Talent to manage a patient load, comfort families, handle emergencies, and document every move. Talent to make snap decisions when someone’s life depends on it. Talent to develop the skills to make all of it possible.

Nursing is empathy. Empathy for our patients. Empathy for their families. Empathy for our coworkers. Empathy for our community. Empathy for a senator who showed her knowledge deficit and made a fool of herself on a national scale.

Nurses don’t play cards and we don’t spread hate. Nurses provide care to others through sacrifice, talent, and empathy. This is a learning opportunity, not just for the Senator, but for everyone.

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