Nurses play cards, cops eat donuts, and other stereotypes

You’ll have to excuse my home state. Walla Walla is a lovely town in a beautiful part of the country, but it is in the eastern half of Washington, which has more than its fair share of rural ignoramuses.

I understand… making sure that we have ‘rest breaks’ and things like that. But I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost… I would submit to you that those [critical access hospital] nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!

Sen. Maureen Walsh (R), Walla Walla

I’ve known a few nurses in my time. What I don’t get is why, if they’re spending most of their time playing cards all day, they come home with aching backs and sore feet all the time? I’ve been in hospitals before, and I’m the one who is lying in bed the whole time, while the nurses are all hustling about on tight schedules, getting the work done. What card game is this that can be done in short bursts and is physically demanding?

I must also beg to differ. This Republican is defending an exemption that benefits hospitals, allowing them to demand mandatory overtime from the nursing staff rather than hiring enough nurses to do the job without overworking them, and that means that care for patients is not first and foremost — hospital profits are. Understandably, that is a very Republican position to take.

Damn, but American health care is such a chaotic mess, thanks to capitalism.


  1. Onamission5 says

    I’m sure the fact that nursing is a caretaking profession dominated by women and one of the largest employers of WoC (esp. as regards home health) has absolutely nothing to do with Sen. Walsh’s reliance upon laziness tropes to justify overworking them. Surprised she didn’t claim nurses sit around eating bon-bons and watching soaps all day.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    recently Massachusetts declined legislating a bill that would mandate a MINIMUM of 5 nurses per patient in hospitals. Opposition was arguing that it would make hospitals refuse admission to new patients, once they’ve maxed out. Never any mention of hospitals being required to hire more nurses. Not even arguing that there aren’t enough nurses available. It was always presented from the Hospital CEO viewpoint that it would make them refuse more patients to stay within the law.
    It is the hospitals who are minimizing their workforce, making nurses attend ~10 patients/day, and jacking up patient fees.

  3. numerobis says

    Oh no, the US is emulating Canadian health care again?

    We have mandatory overtime throughout the Quebec health system. Also, part-time contracts so that nurses need to string together positions at various institutions to make a living (since they’re different jobs, the nurses don’t get compensated for the transport time).

  4. says

    Well, it’s anecdotal evidence but I was stopped at red light the other day and a police car was stopped in the oncoming lane. He put on his flashers, went through the red light and pulled straight into the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Evidently couldn’t wait. Also, there is a state police car in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown providence every morning. So I think there is enough support here for a rigorous study.
    However hospital nurses, I know for a fact, work their butts off.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    legislating a bill that would mandate a MINIMUM of 5 nurses per patient in hospitals

    I don’t know, 5 nurses per patient does seem a little bit excessive. Is one in charge of the head, one in charge of the chest, etc.? Or was this not what you meant to say?

  6. leerudolph says

    Our friend the Tove got the proposed Massachusetts bill somewhat garbled. The proposal was Question 1, and “would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care [etc.]” (my boldface). Of course the reciprocal of min(#nurses/#patients) is max(#patients/#nurses). Apparently Slithey Tove took the last of the six “type of unit and level of care” pairings, viz.,”units with psychiatric or rehabilitation patients: 5 patients per nurse”, but then got the fraction upside down.

    The rest of ST’s comment was error-free.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 5:
    5 nurses per day attending each in-patient. I forget the maximum patients per nurse also included. Excuse me.
    The goal was to give each patient more time with an attentive nurse who wasn’t rushing to the next patient and risking the patientt’s health from oversight.

  8. Curious Digressions says

    They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!

    Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. False.

    Only someone who knows nothing about healthcare would say this. Of course, Repubs don’t have any issue with sounding like know-nothings. Fake news and all.

    It’s also horrible business sense. Paying time and a half for overtime is a huge expense, especially for experienced nursing staff. Even considering the cost of providing benefits for additional staff, it is more cost effective to hire additional people. Not to mention that providing rotten patient care is a good way to get cited to regulatory agencies. Also, overworked staff is unhappy staff. Turnover is crazy expensive.

  9. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 brucegee1962

    I am just guessing as I am too lazy to do the math but 5 seems too low for an acute care hospital, especially a tertiary care one. I think he meant that for every patient that the hospital has in care, you need 5 nurses minimum, not that you have 5 nurses assigned to each patient, or, at least, not normally.

    Let’s see, you have to have coverage 24/7 on the main wards, intensive care wards both for adults and infants. Then you need to cover emergency, again 24/7. Then how many nurses for the operating rooms and do you need at least 2 or 3 always available who can be pulled into an operating room at 03:00 when your emergency doctor is dealing with car crash victims?

    You probably need some nurses with special training for counselling departing patients and so on.

    Five is sounding like not enough

    @ 4 Cervantes
    Doughnut shops are fast, even if you are not eating a doughnut so I am not surprised that you see them there. The assumption is that it is a doughnut though.

  10. says

    There’s a meme on facebook right now encouraging every nurse to send this idiot of a Representative a pack a cards. I like it.

  11. Skeletaldropkick says

    Just a note on patient ratios. I work as an RN in California, where we DO have ratios. They differ by acuity and unit. For instance, the ICU is no more than 2patient to 1 nurse, sometimes 1:1 if the patient needs it. In Post partum, we have no more than 3 mom/baby Dyads to 1 nurse, but in New York, they have as many as 6 mom/baby dyads to each nurse. That is a total of 12 patients per nurse. You might get enough time to do vital signs on you shift and hope like hell no one becomes pre-eclamptic or has a hemorrhage, because you could easily miss it. I mean, especially when you are on you card break.
    Appropriate staffing ratios are vital to patient safety and to nurse’s well-being. And breaks! We NEED them. especially when the shift is rough. we need (emotionally and physically) a moment of not thinking and not doing to recharge. And it has to be uninterrupted. A real break. I went almost an entire summer without breaks due to being severely understaffed at a new hospital, and it was so tiring. Being a nurse is really hard, physically and emotionally. This senator is really uncaring, ignorant and frankly, mean.

  12. vucodlak says

    I come from a family of nurses. My mother and both of my grandmothers were nurses, and several of my cousins still are. My mother was a nurse in a state hospital in Illinois. The state has a policy that allows “mandates,” meaning a nurse could be ordered to work a double shift at any time.

    Some weeks, my mom would be mandated to work 3, 4, even 5 double shifts. That works out to 16+ hours a day, 80+ hours a week, caring for people with severe developmental disabilities. As in, people with the physiques of adults and the mental capacity of toddlers or infants. It was damn hard work, physically and mentally exhausting.

    Then, because there weren’t enough nurses or state hospitals, the hospital opened a forensic unit and staffed it with nurses floated from other parts of the hospital. A forensic unit, for those who don’t know, is where people found mentally unfit to stand trial in criminal cases are sent until such time as they are deemed fit, or where people found not guilty by reason insanity are sent until they’re better. This covers a wide range of offenders, from those who merely violate public decency or commit property crimes to serial rapists and murderers.

    The nurses were, on the forensic unit, required to be both nurse and prison guard. The state’s idea of providing extra security was to put in a few more locking doors and give the nurses and technicians (i.e. orderlies) riot shields. The nurses finally rebelled against this after an incident in which a violent serial rapist took apart a metal bed and, using a leg as a club, injured several techs and nurses. It took ten people, using all the available riot shields, to pin him down so that he could be sedated. He broke several of the shields in the process.

    That is the kind of shit nurses have to put up with.

    The state had (and probably still has) a hiring freeze on nurses as a “cost-saving” measure. Doesn’t make much sense, since overtime pay is time-and-a-half (double-time-and-a-half on some holidays). Because of the refusal to hire appropriate staffing for most areas, their policy requires the use of mandates to fill in care gaps. Burnout is very high- the hospitals work the nurses until they break, essentially.

    Senator Walsh is lying scum. I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to spit on someone, but damn if I wouldn’t be seriously tempted, should I ever encounter her.

  13. vucodlak says

    Also, because I’m still furious about this:
    My (paternal) grandmother got her GED and went to college to become a nurse after my father went off to college. She worked in a private, Catholic hospital for most of her career. She wasn’t Catholic- that’s just where the jobs were at the time, and my grandmother wanted to get right to work. She’d been working since she was 14 (she was the eldest of 9 siblings, and had to help support the family), and she loved doing useful work. The hospital took advantage of that.

    She started out on the hospital’s mental health unit, but it closed, so she transferred to the chemical dependency (i.e. rehab) unit. These were some of the least popular jobs in the hospital; the patients were generally miserable, and therefore often unpleasant. She didn’t care about that; these people needed help, and that’s why she became a nurse. She worked there for over a decade, until that unit closed, too.

    By this time, my grandmother was getting up there in seniority. In other words, she was getting paid a decent amount. So when the CD unit closed, the hospital moved her over to the physical rehabilitation unit, night shift. Alone.

    A huge part of the job on the rehab unit was lifting people out of bed to use the bathroom. My grandmother was barely five feet tall. Five nights a week, she’d be picking up and hauling people (the vast majority of whom were larger than she herself) around for up to twelve hours. She did this for years, until her doctor made her quit. It destroyed her back- she lost at least a couple of inches in height, and lived out the rest of her life in pain. It destroyed her heart, too, which is what eventually killed her.

    If you give hospitals the rein to do it, they’ll work nurses to death. I have nothing but contempt for any fool who claims nurses are lazy.

  14. nomdeplume says

    Of all the long list of things that shouldn’t be done to generate profits, health care should be at the top. In 11 years of extensive medical problems I have never yet enountered a nurse who wasn’t working her arse off, and strangely I’ve never seen one playing cards.

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    When I was naive, I thought police in DD were simply having coffee, standing by for the dispatcher to radio them to a crime scene or accident review. Might eat a donut or two incidentally, DD served coffee while waiting for the call.
    naive dismissal of the cliche stereotype.