Senator Maureen Walsh Makes Controversial Comments Regarding Nurses


Hadley Rosengrant, Writer

Senator Maureen Walsh’s comments regarding nurses have angered healthcare professionals all across America. These controversial comments arose when the Senate was voting on SHB 1155, a bill that enforces uninterrupted and mandatory lunch and rest breaks for nurses. Senator Walsh opposed the bill, and attempted to back up her argument by referencing a small, local hospital in her area. She tried to say that the nurses at this hospital in question probably had a lot of down time because it’s relatively small, but what she said was that the nurses employed there “probably play cards for a considerable amount of time.” This caused a massive uproar, as anyone who knows anything about nursing knows that this could not be farther from the truth. To make things worse, she statedIf we have an issue with nurses getting tired, let’s quit letting them do 12 hour shifts, [then they want the longer shifts] but then they come back and start talking out both sides of their mouth and telling us how tired they are.” In an attempt to make the situation better, she stated, “I was tired, and in the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context – but still they crossed the line. […] I really don’t believe nurses at our critical access hospitals spend their days playing cards, but I did say it, and I wish I could reel it back.”

On April 19th, National Nurses United tweeted, “The thought of a nursing shift where you’d have time for a game of rummy is laughable at best — and an insult to the most trusted profession at worst. Shame on you, Sen. Maureen Walsh!” Senator Walsh has received 10,000 hate emails, 35,000 angry phone calls, and 17,000 decks of cards. 1.5 million people have signed a petition calling for her to shadow a nurse for twelve hours, and as of now, she has agreed to do it.

Bob Jones High School has a very strong Health and Biomedical Career Academy, meaning that a lot of students and faculty members have strong feelings on the issue. Meghan Hall, a junior and a HOSA member stated “Nurses play one of the most pivotal roles in the healthcare field, whether in the hospital, hospice, or otherwise. Without nurses, not only would there be no one to carry out the doctor’s orders, but there wouldn’t be anyone to address the personal needs and concerns of the patients.”

Kara Koler, a Registered Nurse and the Foundations of Health Science teacher at Bob Jones stated, “[People often think that] nursing is easy and that anyone can do it, and that working three 12 hour shifts isn’t that much. I was very disappointed at the ignorance of Senator Walsh. I would have hoped that a US Senator would do some research before speaking poorly of a profession. I don’t feel that the apology she gave was really an apology. It was just another slap in the face of the nursing profession since she basically just said she wished she would have worded what she said differently.”

Angie Brzycki-Kaczmarek, a Registered Nurse at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center said, “[For breaks] I take a half an hour out of a (usually) 13-hour shift. I am able to force down a sandwich, use the bathroom, and take a drink all within 30 minutes out of those 13 hours. [Senator Walsh’s] comments made me feel very sad. I can remember recently holding a patient’s hand while they were passing away and telling them that they were not alone and it was okay to go if they were ready, because their family members were driving in from out of state. We have people’s lives in our hands, we use dignity, respect, and kindness as if they are our own family members. Would you want your family member to die alone?”

I personally believe that Senator Walsh’s comments are completely unacceptable. At first she was referencing a specific (small) hospital in her area, but then her comments became more general (and offensive) when she took a more condescending tone in regard to nurses being frustrated with working long hours at understaffed hospitals. Walsh also suggested that nurses should just work 8 hours instead of 12, which would be a complete disaster. While the staff that works the night shift is leaving, the shift that will work during the day comes in and is briefed on what happened during the night.  I was fortunate enough to get to shadow a few nurses for a week at Crestwood Medical Center, if I learned anything that week, it was that being a nurse is one of the most stressful jobs in existence. Nurses have to deal with grumpy patients, low salaries, inordinate amounts of all kinds of bodily fluids, and don’t even get me started on the charting. But despite all of that, the nurses I met were compassionate, tolerant, and they all truly loved what they did, even though they had to deal with constant disrespect and misguided anger. It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse, and the last thing that our political leaders should be doing is degrading what might be the most essential profession.