Sunday, July 21, 2019

What happened to Mop Swinging Nurses?

"That spot you missed will cost you 10 demerits"
Nurses from my generation knew their way around a janitor's closet as well as whippersnapperns know how to monkey with a Pixis. Mopping floors was an integral part of any diploma school nursing education curriculum. Just when you thought nothing could top scrubbing mucous/emesis stalactites from bed frames, mopping madness was introduced.

The swabbing the deck curriculum began with an orientation to perhaps the most important and critical cog in the hospital hygiene world which was the lowly slop sink. These marvels of plumbing technology consisted of a square, slightly elevated receptacle just inches off the floor. They were marble back in the day, but toward the end of my nursing days they were (gasp) fiberglass which definitely  lacked presence and looked cheap. Slop sinks close to the floor were a real boon to a nurse's back because the massive 30 liter buckets could be filled and emptied with minimal lifting. Filling buckets was lots more fun than emptying the bacterial/blood/stew medley that frequently accumulated after a mopping session.

Home base for the RN mop crew was a trolley consisting  of two 30 liter buckets on a mobile platform.  Bucket # 1 was filled with 19 liters of hot water and a foul smelling witches brew of ammonia compounds and an overpowering  detergent that really meant business. The ratio of solution was 10:1 and this factoid was always a question on just about any test. Bucket #2 was equipped with a wringer and Miss Bruiser, my favorite instructor, claimed that aggressive mop wringing was good for the bust line. I don't know about that, but my signature move was twirling the high modulous cotton/rayon mop head as it settled into the wringer which really got the juices flowing (the mop's, not mine) when the wringer mechanism was actuated.

Alice, my favorite operating room supervisor was equally  adept at mop swinging as sponge stick loading. My mopping abilities were honed to perfection by lessons from Alice. She  said to always pull the mop toward you while moving backwards. I modified her technique to a sideways  stance after backing into a kick basin and nearly breaking my neck in a free fall to the floor. After that episode I often referred to them a trip basins.

I actually enjoyed mopping operating room floors. The rhythmic swinging of the mop had a meditative component to it and I loved seeing the immediate results of my labors. After dealing with verbally assaultive surgeons and aching fingers from loading needle drivers, mopping was  a refreshing oasis complete with the soothing sloshing of water. A gift.

In the sunset years of my work in the OR, young nurses were surprised at my love of mopping and suggested there might be a better use for my skills. I was far too compliant to question mopping duties and too foolish  to refuse, after all, I was doing it for the patients. Old nurses would do just about anything for their patients.

Today on my frequent visits to hospitals as a patient, it's as though I'm entering the Twilight Zone. I don't know which is worse, carpeted floors or the total absence of moppers of any permutation. Modern hospital have descended to a hellscape of ubiquitous beeping and bleeping electronic doo-dads with nurses caring for computers on wheels. I would much rather be wheeling around something of substance like a fully loaded mop trolley.


  1. I can't comment on the mopping OFRN as the cleaners usually did that in my time (bless them - our cleaners were pure gold!) but the mention of carpeted floors really struck a chord. The first time I saw a carpeted ward I nearly passed out from horror - how can you possibly clean a floor like that in a hospital I thought. Horror! GERMS!

    They were in fact later taken up and replaced by good old linoleum that you could actually mop down and polish. Hallelujah! The familiar comforting sound of nurses' shoes squeaking slightly on a smooth shiny floor was back again - along with that lovely hospital smell of antiseptic. Thanks for the post! Sue

    1. Sue, there was wonder in the auditory cues provided by clean linoleum/terrazzo hospital floors. That muffled squeak noise of nurse's clinic shoes gently impacting the floor reminded me of the sound mature corn fields made as a summer breeze blew through the leaves. You just knew you were in a place you were meant to be. Home at last.

      I also loved that gentle sing-song whirring noise that was produced by janitors diligently running their buffing machines. It was almost like background music. Nurses were never allowed to operate floor buffing equipment. I know, because I asked. That task looked like such fun and the shine was so brilliant, you could see your reflection. You sure cannot do that with carpet!

    2. Oooo! Operating a buffing machine does sound like fun. My daughter said that was something I would do; ask to run something because it looks like fun and be disappointed by the No that followed.

  2. I guess I'm a WhipperSnapper, as I never in my career had to mop a floor...
    But I share Anon's horror of carpeted floors ~Eeeeyuck!!!

    1. I heartily concur. Carpeting hospital floors was almost certainly dreamed up by office sitters with little clinical experience. I encourage them to arise out of their chairs and bury their snoot in a carpeted hospital floor. Now for the fun part...take a deep breath.

  3. Carpet on hospital floors is right up there with carpet on bathroom floors. Ewwwwwww.

  4. We seem to be off-topic talking about carpeted wards instead of mopping, OFRN, but sometimes tangential discussions are fun! I was surprised at the number of articles about the benefits or otherwise of carpet versus other types of flooring in hospitals on Google (and yes OK it's been a quiet week here apart from visiting a lot of Ophthamologists and I wanted to get my mind off eye problems & figured the blue light from the computer would be really helpful...)

    So it seems mostly carpets are recommended because they help prevent falls (both patients and staff). However in general most studies I looked at found more pathogens in hospital carpets than in other types of easier-to-clean flooring. And all confirmed the floor of the hospital to be the most dangerous place for anyone or anything to be touching...

    Now who'd have thought? I learnt that on the first day of Nursing School back in January 1975. Talk about the bleeding obvious...

    Cheers! Sue

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