During a recent Washington State Senate floor debate, Senator Maureen Walsh said, “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.”
To say that nurses were upset is the understatement of the year. We asked some nurses for their reactions to the Senator’s quote. Here’s what they had to say.
“Walsh’s comment infuriates nurses because it reflects dangerous ignorance, at best. The very reason for the kind of legislation she is opposing here is that, contrary to the implication of her comment, nurses today struggle with rampant understaffing that pushes them to burnout. Research shows that puts their patients at higher risk of suffering, complications, and death. It’s one thing to claim that more regulation will harm a particular industry. But for a comfortable state legislator to tell an exhausted health professional that she has lots of time to play cards highlights a huge failure of understanding. No surprise: The entertainment media presents nurses as low-skilled servants who sit or stand around waiting for orders (or maybe thinking about their bridge club!), while physician characters do the work that nurses do in real life.
We think Walsh’s comment shows the need to establish a “Nursing Awareness Certificate” for decision-makers. Anyone who wants to make health-related policy or media should have to complete a “Follow a Nurse” program that we are initiating at The Truth About Nursing. That would involve following a hospital nurse with an average workload for a typical 12-hour day of clinical practice: arriving and leaving when the nurse does; staying side-by-side with the nurse for every step of the nurse’s day; eating, drinking, resting, and getting a rest room break only when the nurse does; no special meetings with administrators. We will help find the nurses for them to follow.”
—Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, executive director of The Truth About Nursing, and coauthor of Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk
“I have been a Registered Nurse for the past 19 years. I found it to be very insulting that Senator Walsh would suggest that all we do is play cards all day. Clearly, she has no idea what our profession is about or even has walked in our shoes. I am a very hard-working, dedicated, and caring nurse, who doesn’t have time to play cards, because I am too busy saving lives.
Patient care is a nurse’s top priority. This type of ignorant statement feeds into the stereotype that nurses don’t do anything or that our job is so easy. I would love for Senator Walsh to have an area with 6-8 patients, who may be confused, or on a tube feeding, or have wound dressing changes, or getting a post op or ER admission. Let’s see how she would feel about being a nurse then.
Her statement also showed her lack of respect for the profession. If you do not work in a profession, then you should not be able to pass judgment on a profession.”
—S. Carter, BSN, RN, nurse entrepreneur, public speaker, mentor, and founder of Women of Integrity Inc.
“I’ve been a nurse for over 10 years and have worked in various different roles from the emergency room to orthopedics. During all of this time, I’ve never had a break other than a lunch break (some days, not even that). Some days at the end of my shift (12 hours or more), as I was getting ready to leave, I would realize that I hadn’t even gone to the bathroom because I hadn’t had time.
From the reactions I’ve seen on social media and heard from my current colleagues, there’s no question that the Senator’s remarks have sparked an outrage among the nursing community. I personally feel that they show ignorance on her part in regards to what we actually do. They also show a lack of respect for people who go to work every day where our job is to take care of other human beings during which, for many of them, is the most unpleasant moments of their lives.
I think I can speak for most in the profession that each one of us cares enormously about our patients and feel what we do is important to helping others feel better. This is what drives us to go to work each day even though we know we probably won’t have a break and are lucky if we get to go to the bathroom. Granted there are some areas of the profession that aren’t this way and even if the nurses who work in these areas are able to have breaks, I highly doubt they are playing cards.”
—Ashley Wood, RN, BSN, nurse and contributor at DemystifyingYourHealth.com
“The unfortunate comments by Senator Walsh were uninformed and reflect a profound disrespect for nurses. Despite her mother being a nurse, it seems she is not aware of how hard nurses work at helping their patients. While her stated goal of keeping small rural hospitals is laudable and a goal shared by nursing, her attack is not the way to do so.
Nursing is the largest health care occupational group and, as such, are privileged to be there when babes are born and at the end of life. That Senator Walsh believes we spend our time playing cards shows how little she is aware of what nurses actually do.”
—Bob Smithing, MSN, FNP, FAANP, clinical director at FamilyCare of Kent and executive director of ARNPs United of Washington State
“Senator Maureen Walsh’s comment that nurses ‘probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day’ was insulting to say the least. Nurses who work in direct patient care are among the hardest working members of the health care team. We often forgo breaks and stay extra hours because of short staffing. My labor and delivery colleagues and I spend our time charting, monitoring fetal heart strips, coaching patients as they push for hours, helping new moms breastfeed, assessing newly delivered patients for signs of postpartum hemorrhage, among many other responsibilities.
Although the comments were made in regards to the necessity of mandatory overtime among hospital staff nurses, Senator Walsh’s statement overlooks the many nursing roles beyond the bedside such as nurse educators and nurse researchers. My days as an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Widener University are filled with preparing the next generation of nurses and advancing the field through lecturing, creating exams, holding office hours, grading papers, prepping for future lectures, designing research studies, submitting research grants, and writing manuscripts for publication.
There is no time for a game of spades, Uno, or even solitaire. It is clear that Senator Walsh does not understand the vast role nurses play, none of which include dealing cards.”
—Tiffany Montgomery, PhD, RNC-OB, C-EFM, a labor and delivery nurse at Einstein Medical Center and assistant professor at Widener University
“Nurses are too busy caring for patients to even sit down, no less play cards.”
—Kim Dupree Jones, PhD, FNP-BC, RN, FAAN, dean of the Linfield College School of Nursing
“What is important for nurses is to go to the source of the information directly in order to put the comments into context. While her flippant comment was unnecessary and insulting, I understand Sen. Walsh’s frustration with a bill that will significantly impact the staffing model of critical access hospitals. As she was referring only to those nurses who may work an entire shift with only one or two patients in the facility, I am sure many of those nurses are aware of how they spend their hours of down time.”
—Catherine Burger, RN, BS, MSOL, NEA-BC, media specialist and contributor at RegisteredNursing.org
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