When Gov. Ann Richards needed a flu shot in 1992, she summoned Tim Flynn, the Texas Capitol’s recently installed nurse, to her office.
Nervous about giving the governor a shot, Flynn forgot to bring a Band-Aid. Richards asked if she would bleed. “I said, ‘I hope not.” Flynn recalled. “And she said, ‘I hope not either, because this is a $300 silk blouse.'"
In the end, Flynn did not receive a cleaning bill. “But I’ve never forgotten Band-Aids since then,” said Flynn, now the Capitol’s nurse practitioner.
Through the administrations of Richards, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, Flynn has been a constant presence at the Capitol, dispensing flu shots, providing patient education to lawmakers and treating their staff members’ sinus infections. He compares his job to being a “doc in a small town.”
“Everybody here has great trust in him, and he knows everybody,” said state Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon. “He knows I have bad allergies because he’s seen me before. It’s like going to see your family doctor.”
Flynn, 59, arrived at the Capitol in 1992 and became the building’s first full-time nurse the next year. Before Flynn, nurses stayed only during the legislative sessions, every other year. But with growing year-round traffic at the Capitol, Flynn was given a full-time post.
Though he enjoyed being the “school nurse to the Legislature,” Flynn grew frustrated with his inability to write prescriptions or diagnose illnesses. In 1999, Pete Laney, then the House speaker, suggested that Flynn return to school to become a nurse practitioner. So Flynn applied to the University of Texas at Austin — his references were Laney, Gov. George W. Bush and Lt. Gov. Rick Perry — and graduated in 2002.
As a state employee, Flynn does not charge patients. His Capitol clinic operates on a first-come, first-served basis. When children on school trips fall down, they go to him. State employees drop by when they have headaches.
“I love my job,” he said, adding, “After being here 20 years, I know most of the folks that work here. I know their medical histories, their idiosyncrasies. This is my community. That’s why I call it my Capitol.”
In emergencies, Flynn is one of the first on the scene, providing life support until paramedics arrive. In 1999, when a Capitol parking guard was found slumped over his desk and suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding, Flynn treated him for shock before paramedics arrived and saved the man’s life.
Responding to emergencies is the smallest part of his job, Flynn said. He spends most of his time on procedures like treating strep throat, saving patients a trip to their primary care providers.
His job takes on added importance during the biennial legislative sessions, when lawmakers convene for 140 days at the Capitol.
“When it’s crunch time, I don’t have to call a doctor; I can go down to Tim’s office,” Hardcastle said. “When you have the flu during the night and you’re working on legislation, you need treatment. His job is vital to what we do.”
Members of both houses of the Legislature expressed their appreciation for “Nurse Tim” by passing a resolution proclaiming Feb. 7, 2005, “Tim Flynn Day and Advanced Practice Nurses Day.” A framed copy of the resolution is displayed on the wall in Flynn’s office.
“I think it’ll be hard to find words to express the gratitude that the people around the Capitol have for Tim,” said Laney, who left the House in 2007, “and for what he’s meant to everything from little kids to some of us old folks.”