Rural Nurses Respond to Comments Made by WA State Senator

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A Washington State Senator is receiving backlash after making comments last week, saying nurses in smaller, rural hospitals may spend much of their time playing cards.

Senator Maureen Walsh made the comments during a debate on a bill proposing uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses in hospitals with less than 25 beds.

There are many rural hospital nurses throughout North Dakota, and some had their say on this issue.

There is no shortage of dedicated nurses at Ashley Medical Center. The rural hospital has less than 25 beds but requires lots of work to maintain patient care

"There are times when you can't even ask the other person how their day is and it can be overwhelming," says Mary Schlepp, licensed practitioner nurse at AMC.

While the nursing staff agrees some days are busier than others, they're all prepared to drop what they're doing when the E.R. bell goes off.

"Everything stops when the patient comes in the door. There's no one that would ever say, you know, 'I'll see you in 30 minutes.' That's just not the way it happens. Patients are our first priority always," says Cathy Lippert, registered nurse at AMC.

They say they received the same training as nurses in bigger hospitals and put in just as much work.

"My nurses work very hard. They have all the training that they need to for any kind of patient to walk in through the doors including traumas, codes, pediatrics... and, you know, some days they don't get a break," Cathy Jenner, Director of Nursing at AMC, says.

Mavis Widmer, a long-time patient of AMC, says the care she's received from the center's nurses has been better than what she's received from bigger hospitals.

"I don't think you can go any place where you could get a better care than you do right here," says Widmer.

When asked if they've ever taken a break to play cards or had excess time to do so, the nurses at AMC shared the same answer.

"They definitely are not playing cards... on their 'breaks'," says Jenner.

"Not once," says Lippert.

"No, we don't plan on card games or tournaments or anything like that," Schlepp explains.

While there might be some nurses in rural hospitals who have played cards during their breaks, the nurses in AMC settled the question for their center.

Thousands of people have signed an online petition for Senator Walsh to shadow a local nurse for a 12-hour shift.

Over the weekend, Senator Walsh responded by saying she was tired when she made the comments and did something she wishes she hadn't.