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Senator Maureen Walsh: When Do Nurses Have Time to Play Cards?

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jeastridge jeastridge, BSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

What do you think of Senator Walsh "play cards" comment?

Last week Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh made comments that have elicited a strong response from nurses across the country. This article discusses the comments and invites nurses to use it as an opportunity to educate the general public.

Senator Maureen Walsh: When Do Nurses Have Time to Play Cards?

Senator Maureen Walsh: When Do Nurses Have Time to Play Cards? Really????

Last Tuesday, April 16, the Washington State Senate was debating a bill that offered to protect nurses’ break and lunch times. During the discussion, one of the senators, Maureen Walsh, offered the following comment: “By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you those nurses probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”

Her comments made headlines which led to a twitter storm with nurses once again at the epicenter of a healthcare debate. As a first-term state senator, Walsh represents the 16th district of Walla Walla in southern Washington state.

Washington State Nurses’ Association (WSNA) was quick to respond to the comments and called them “patronizing and demeaning.” The head of WSNA, Matthew Keller, went on to say, “No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community.”

The measure under consideration has the support of WSNA and it passed in the Senate but it passed with the two objectionable amendments attached: one to limit the number of hours nurses can work and one to remove the protections for meal and break times. It remains to be seen whether the governor will sign the bill —there is no indication at this time of Governor Jay Inslee’s stance regarding the bill. The WSNA has vowed to fight the amendments.

Walsh later put forth additional comments that stated her support for nurses during a statement to KEPR TV, "The comment made about the ability to play cards was referring to the staff at the very rural and small critical access hospitals who may only serve a handful of patients and the staffing mandates are unnecessary.” She went further in her comments to the Tri-City Herald on Saturday saying, “I was tired. I said something I wish I hadn’t.”

The backlash on social media and Twitter was swift and loud with many responses highlighting the general sentiment that nurses are often not afforded the respect they have earned and deserve. With a profession made up of almost 3 million strong, it would appear from comments such as the senator’s, that we don’t always receive recognition for what we do. It is also apparent that there is a real lack of understanding in the general public about exactly what our role is in the healthcare system. Because we do so much and in such a wide variety of settings, it IS hard for us to explain even to our family members what exactly occupies those 12 grueling hours each shift. I can remember struggling to share with my parents what it was that I did as a new graduate. They would ask me well-intentioned questions such as, “Did you give any medicines today?” As kind as they were, their difficulty in even knowing what to ask me about revealed how little they understood. Their struggle matches that of the public at large who would be hard pressed to say much about what nurses actually do.

One obvious point that comes from this episode is that Maureen Walsh and all our elected officials need to take the time to get to know better what they are talking about as relates to the legislation at hand. It is impossible to make good legislative decisions if you have no concept of the role these professional nurses play in the healthcare realm. We hope that the groups that represent us, the professional organizations that many of us join and pay our dues to, will take this opportunity to offer to educate the senators of Washington State and to use this platform to share information about nursing as a profession with the country at large.

One of the reasons Walsh’s comments strike such a nerve is that they are the exact opposite of what most nurses face on the job. As a group, we tend to struggle daily with being short staffed and feeling spread so thin that we are unable to complete even the essentials much less the optional duties. The chronic callbacks, the sense of needing to work while not feeling well, and the documentation pressures seem to mount every day. All of these current realities make the senator’s comments like a public slap in the face of a profession that works hard, a lot, under tough conditions, doing all we can with less and less.

This imprudent and insensitive remark by Walsh can become an opportunity. We can use our voices to let others know what we really do. We can become our own best advocates by not letting this mean-spirited comment be the winning note in a discordant world.

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This reminds me of another degrading comment made by a clueless individual about a certain nurse on a public stage wearing a doctor's stethoscope...

Joy is a Faith Community Nurse who enjoys writing. In her spare time, she loves to take long walks, cook for crowds and play with her grandchildren.

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19 Comment(s)

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

I hope the citizens of Washington start a recall effort and kick her out on her can! Then she can play cards all she wants!

Edited by brandy1017

canoehead, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

I'd like to know how many decks of cards get delivered to her. And a list of other items that nurses thought she could use. I know someone sent butt wipes.

Now I sit down at a card table in Vegas and tell everyone I’m a nurse. You know, just to intimidate them with how much experience I have.

NurseSpeedy, ADN, LPN, RN

Has 18 years experience.

On 4/22/2019 at 8:20 PM, canoehead said:

I'd like to know how many decks of cards get delivered to her. And a list of other items that nurses thought she could use. I know someone sent butt wipes.

May be the first time tap water enema bags end up on a back order list at the supply house

osceteacher

Specializes in Practice educator. Has 15 years experience.

A stunningly stupid thing to say, its inconceivable to me that someone would even contemplate saying this. We live in a world where Trump is president so another elected politician saying stupid things shouldn't really surprise me.

Walsh's astounding ignorance makes me wonder what else she is spouting off about that she knows nothing of.

bbyRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in TCU, Dementia care, nurse manager. Has 5 years experience.

Maybe on break while eating? Ask her just how long she spent scouting the nurses. BTW, there's no time to play cards in LTC. My nurses are some of the the most dedicated people I have met..

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

On 4/22/2019 at 7:20 PM, canoehead said:

I'd like to know how many decks of cards get delivered to her. And a list of other items that nurses thought she could use. I know someone sent butt wipes.

Butt wipes! That's better than cards . . . maybe she can use those all of those busy days in politics when she doesn't get a chance to go to the bathroom.

How ironic that she said something cuz she was tired. I sure would hate to see what happens when she is fully awake. Oops gotta go my turn to deal!

AmyJo2018

Has 1 years experience.

So Sen. Walsh made a slip of the tongue when she was tired? Think of the damage a tired nurse working a long shift with minimal breaks could do. I think she illustrated the point right there, but being too partisan to even notice.

Good grief. I just put in an 82 hour work week. 42 hours of that OT exempt. Eating at my desk. I continue to work this week, with OT also. I'd give my eye teeth to sit down and play cards with my husband at night! I end up sleeping. Tired? I can show you tired. Oh, yeah. And I'm 65 years old. Come on, retirement!!!

Edited by Old-Amazon
Forgot something.

I admit it.. she is out of line. She has probably not ever observed what she described. But I have seen ER nurses shopping on computers. Sitting at the station taking the seat I need to do my documentation. I have also seen nurses up nonstop. It could be worse. Paramedics are out in all weather with no help, no breaks, lucky to eat, low pay and lives are truly in their hands. Lets all be grateful for what we have because there is always someone worse off.

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 37 years experience.

She is auditioning for a job on The View.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

16 hours ago, xcracer said:

I admit it.. she is out of line. She has probably not ever observed what she described. But I have seen ER nurses shopping on computers. Sitting at the station taking the seat I need to do my documentation. I have also seen nurses up nonstop. It could be worse. Paramedics are out in all weather with no help, no breaks, lucky to eat, low pay and lives are truly in their hands. Lets all be grateful for what we have because there is always someone worse off.

I'm sorry -- this post just struck me as dismissive of the insult to nurses in general. You've seen ER nurses shopping on computers -- it happens. In every job there is a little downtime, no matter how rare. If you needed to do documentation and there was no other computer available, I'm sure that ER nurse would have been happy to let you use it.

I remember when my husband was out on the ambulance. Yes, they have busy shifts where they are lucky to eat, the weather sucks and they get no help . . . but I remember my husband complaining when his night shift team didn't get 3-4 consecutive hours to nap (!) and it was the rare night when they didn't stop to get take-out. They knew all the best places to get fried chicken and barbecue.

Everyone is entitled to breaks -- nurses, paramedics, firefighters, EMTs, and even elected officials. It's just that some people (Senator Walsh) don't know what they don't know. And she has no idea how rare is the uninterrupted break for a healthcare worker.

16 hours ago, xcracer said:

I admit it.. she is out of line. She has probably not ever observed what she described. But I have seen ER nurses shopping on computers. Sitting at the station taking the seat I need to do my documentation. I have also seen nurses up nonstop. It could be worse. Paramedics are out in all weather with no help, no breaks, lucky to eat, low pay and lives are truly in their hands. Lets all be grateful for what we have because there is always someone worse off.

If we were all to have that philosophy, poor working conditions or unfair policies would never be challenged. Yeah, I'd like a lunch break in my 12 hour shift, but hey, I shouldn't complain because there are starving children in Africa, and I could probably stand to lose a few pounds anyway, and at least I'm not working 12 hours in the heat, and so and so has it worse. In fact, I should actually be grateful!

Administrators whose job is to cut expenses to the bone no matter how it impacts the worker bees just love it when their employees accept the philosophy in bold above. It makes their jobs a lot easier.

Edited by Horseshoe

I agree Ruby. Everyone should get breaks. One would think fewer mistakes, better attitudes ... I can't think of a negative of reasonable breaks in a 12hr shift. I also agree with your statement regarding Walsh. But I don't think all nurses or medics should be pigeon-holed. There are busy areas and slow areas. Lazy and non lazy. Rude and not rude.

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 37 years experience.

On 4/22/2019 at 8:20 PM, canoehead said:

'd like to know how many decks of cards get delivered to her.

1700 decks and counting