I don't know much about critical access facilities, but I do think there's often a misperception of nurses having a lot of downtime because it often appears that way when you don't know what's going on. Our work ebs and flows very quickly, and if I get caught up charting and am waiting for my next med pass or task then I may sit and chat with a coworker or I may do something on my phone. Then things will get busy again for a while and then slow down for a while, depending on the day and where you're working.
I think non-nurses really don't get this, including administration who may walk around and see a couple of nurses chatting or doing something not directly work related and assume they have plenty of free time, when in fact those nurses are waiting on critical patient to arrive, or a lab value to administer a medication, or CT results before taking a patient to surgery, etc etc etc......we wait a lot for things as nurses, but that is not free time.
There's a lot of "hurry up and wait" in our field, and trying to fill the perceived "wait" times by cutting staff or adding responsibilities only jeopardizes the critical "hurry up" time when it soon comes.
Also, chances are that if you're caught up and actually do have free time, then someone else doesn't and your availability to help out coworkers is valuable.
Even on those luxurious days when you're not terribly busy, most people would rather have a couple of nurses at the desk available to answer call lights, help eachother, and respond quickly to emergencies than have everyone stretched so thin they're always stressed and unavailable.
Lastly, non-healthcare people seriously underestimate the dynamics and toll of working with people in a healthcare setting. Most of them are in some of the worst times of their lives, dealing with health, financial, and social hardships and part of the nurses job is to help carry that burden with them. Is it really that terrible when we can afford a few minutes to take our mind off the job?
I may be slightly off topic here, but anyway......