By Carrie Mortrud, RN
MNA Project Specialist
Ok, by now, you’ve probably heard the ignorant and irresponsible comments of Washington state Senator Maureen Walsh who attacked all nurses by opposing a bill aimed at guaranteeing breaks and stopping mandatory overtime.
Walsh unwisely said this while the Washington state Senate considered SHB 1155, which would provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest breaks.
“I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks,” Walsh said on the Senate floor. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”
Despite the ridiculousness of her comments, that doesn’t mean that every MNA member shouldn’t take something away from this ignorant comment, even though the Senator has said she regrets the remark (ironically, she claimed she was “tired” from no breaks at the Capitol. What happens nurses when nurses get tired?).
This incident shows that no one, yes, no one knows what it’s like as a nurse unless you actually have or do work at the bedside. It says that the issues of staffing, workplace violence, proper training, floating to an unfamiliar unit, etc. are only seen by the nurses. Sure, patients know when the hospital is short staffed. They know they’re waiting for call lights or meds or bathroom help, but they don’t know it can be like this every day. They just know it’s happening to them right now.
The hospitals want to keep it this way too. After all, if they close off patient care, no one can see what a circus it can be or what a safety risk either. They can’t see that nurses are giving 110 percent every day, every shift, everywhere to keep up with patient needs, patient acuity, and all the other situations nurses have to juggle.
While it’s funny for nurses to post memes and comebacks on Facebook or wherever to the clueless Senator Walsh of Washington, we need to remember only nurses can tell our stories. Only nurses can talk about safe patient care, about workplace violence, about harassment, about staffing. We’re the only ones who get it. For now. If we want patients (and therefore hospitals) to get it too, we have to show them what nursing looks like.
A lot of nurses are expressing their outrage at these comments on Facebook and by calling the Senator. The best way to really want to make change at your hospital, however, is to support the MNA Metro Negotiating Teams that are bargaining over proposals that would provide the resources to actually allow nurses to take breaks, and have proper staffing. Management has shown little to no interest in any of these proposals and in many cases, seems to think that nurses rarely miss their breaks. Nurses across the metro are supporting their Teams by attending negotiations, making calls to their Nursing Directors, and wearing pins and buttons in support. Contact your MNA Negotiating Team or MNA staff for more details on how to get involved and make change in your hospital.