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Nurses with Kendall at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Nurses playing cards: Setting the record straight

There was recent uproar over some politician making a claim to the effect that “nurses sit around playing cards.” And many nurses were rightfully up in arms about this slight to their career.

But being that it’s Nurses Week, and we have had the absolute pleasure, privilege, and honor to work with some amazing nurses, I thought maybe I should do my part to set the record straight.

Kendall playing with a nurse at Children's WisconsinNurses do sit around playing cards.

They also play Connect Four.

And hangman on the large glass doors of the ICU rooms.

They play “hide the elf” at Christmas and they play “arts & crafts” at any opportunity.

They put on birthday parties for dolls, and for their patients.

They do this with gusto, they do it without complaining, they do it while pushing their own feelings and fears and stresses down.


Because being able to play cards with their patient in room 6 because she’s finally off the ventilator is a privilege, it’s a gift that they didn’t think they’d have four days prior. It’s a gift that their patient in room 3 might not get. It’s a gift that the patient in room 1 never got to have.

Those card playing days? Those are the good ones. Those are the days where they haven’t had to hold their own bodily functions for 8 solid hours because their patients hearts were failing and they were tied to a bank of IV machines carefully titrating meds and rates and emptying huge bags of dialyzed fluids because if they walked away for even two minutes it could literally mean life or death for their fragile patient.

Kendall at Children's WisconsinThe card playing days are the ones where they haven’t had to meet a scared mama at the door of the ICU unit to warn her that her baby girl was struggling really badly and prepare her for what she was going to walk in to.

The card playing days are the ones where they haven’t had to help prepare a mama and a daddy to say goodbye to their child way too soon, way too unexpectedly.

The card playing days are the ones where they haven’t had to hold an infant through the throes of withdrawal because they were born to drug addicted parents who never even came to the hospital to check on their own babies.

I’ll tell you what else nurses do, when they’re not busy playing cards.

They are administering pain meds finally to a child who has been whimpering in pain from a surgery site and had to wait three more hours till the next dose.

They are bringing blessed relief. And in the next room they have to be the bearer of pain as it’s time for that patients Lovenox shot into a bruised up little leg that should never have to know the horrors of twice daily painful subcutaneous blood thinners.

They are rearranging endless strings of IV tubing and ventilator tubing and dialysis hoses so that grandma and grandpa can come touch the comatose body of their grandchild that may not make it to the next Christmas.


They are sitting next to a shell shocked mom on the couch listening to her hold back tears while she asks, “Is my baby going to be okay?” They are holding back their own tears as they answer in the gentlest way possible with the knowledge that chances aren’t good but this mom wants only a little hope in a dark room.

Kendall with a nurse at Children's WisconsinWhen they aren’t busy playing cards, nurses are being nurses.




Food orders for the patient who just got cleared for her first bite of real food in a month.

Party planners because in the ICU everything, every little win, is a cause for celebration.

Cruise ship directors for the mom who needs to drink something before she passes out and the only way she might is if the nurse pretends like they are on a tropical island ordering fruity beverages.


Life savers.

Hand holders.

Tough as nails with soft hearts that get worn on their sleeves.

That’s what else nurses do.

Nurses are why I will be able to hug all four of my babies this Mothers Day.

Nurses are why I am not curled up in a fetal position in a corner having lost my mind after too many days locked into the same four sterile walls.

Nurses are why I know how to care for my own complex little girl in our own home.

Nurses have guided my child through some tough circumstances that we didn’t think she’d make it through. Those same nurses have helped me pack my child and her pumps and tubes into our car months later to finally head home.

Nurses are the closest thing you will ever know to an angel on earth.

So yeah, nurses play cards.

And I hope for all of the nurses everywhere that you get to play cards today.

We are who and where we are because of you.

Thank you hardly seems adequate, so maybe I’ll just send you all a pack of cards instead.

To all the nurses we have been blessed to know, interact with, live with, and be forever indebted to,

Thank you.

Terra blogs her journey through life as a mom of four girls, including to her medically complex special needs daughter Kendall, at Terra Talking, sharing hope for all families walking a similar path. Connect with Terra on Facebook and follow along with Kendall's Journey