Picture this scene. Your eight-year-old daughter comes running in with blood pouring down her hand. Sobbing, she explains that her teenage sister left the food processor cutting blade in a sudsy sink full of water. When younger sibling reached in to get a spoon, she badly cut herself.
In addition to bandaging up the wound, are thoughts of punishment for the older child running through your head? After all, the rule about not leaving sharp objects concealed so that they can hurt someone has been discussed many times.
I actually do not remember if I called out my oldest child’s name in anger (though I’m sure she does) before realizing that the “blood” was actually ketchup and the entire story was a fabrication concocted in the mind of a mischievous, sometimes verging on fiendish, little girl.
Knowing the entire story, in context, makes a world of difference.
The above story is one of many I could tell about that impish little girl with a glint in her eye. She is now a lovely young woman, married, the mother of two little boys and a practicing nurse. Fortunately, her sense of humor has matured while remaining vibrant. My thoughts immediately jumped to her when I saw headline snippets of a hard-hearted and clueless Washington state senator declaring that nurses spend their time playing cards.
The facts were almost as incorrect as in my opening story. Senator Maureen Walsh did say that nurses, “…probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” But she was making a point, poorly worded as it was, that was not meant to denigrate nurses or nursing, but rather to point out the difference in the needs of hospitals in urban, rural and remote areas. In a debate on regulations, she was highlighting that rules which make sense under certain conditions can be crippling under others.
My point isn’t whether her argument is accurate or a good one. That should emerge from debate and factual information. However, instead of discovering what she actually said and discussing it, what happened was a public keel-hauling, taking her remarks out of context and stirring the social media pot of venom. Could her words have been more carefully chosen? Of course. Yet, there is not one of us who hasn’t clumsily said something we could have better articulated.
My daughter, who worked in the ICU for two years has, along with her colleagues, missed meals while on 12-hour shifts. They have found it impossible to catch a rest or go to the bathroom. We increasingly treat both our doctors and nurses poorly, if not cruelly, in ways that demoralize them and decrease the care they can provide for patients. Some of that is the result of regulations that sounded good on paper but worked out completely differently in reality. Debate on many issues is desperately needed. A society that plays “gotcha” instead of encouraging open conversation and dialogue, as it did with Senator Walsh, is establishing a more dangerous scenario than the one concocted in my eight-year-old’s imagination.