State senator slammed after saying nurses 'play cards for a considerable amount of the day'

Washington state senator Maureen Walsh slammed for saying that nurses "play cards for a considerable amount of the day." (Photo: TVW)

A Washington state senator is facing scrutiny after saying that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”

Republican state Senator Maureen Walsh made the controversial remark during a debate over a bill that would provide nurses with uninterrupted meals and rest periods. Walsh argued in support of an amendment that would exempt critical access hospitals or hospitals with fewer than 25 beds from the bill, with reasoning that has struck a chord with a number of medical professionals.

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“I understand helping with employees and making sure that we have rest breaks and things like that. But I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost,” 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.”

Now, nurses, doctors and patients are all taking to their own Twitter accounts to express just how wrong Walsh’s assumption is.

Nearly 50,000 people reacted to Walsh’s statement by signing a Change.org petition demanding that the lawmaker follow a nurse for a 12-hour shift.

The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) also addressed Walsh’s remarks with a post on its website, where the union’s director of nursing practice and health policy, Matthew Keller, called the statements “incredibly disrespectful and patronizing.”

“No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community,” Keller’s statement reads. “There is zero logic behind an amendment to the rest breaks bill that would cover nurses and patients in some hospitals, while leaving others without any protections.”

Walsh didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, she issued a statement to Washington news station KEPR clarifying that she added the amendment to say that if nurses are experiencing exhaustion and fatigue, then their shifts are likely too long. This argument would aid in her following proposal that nurses be limited to 8-hour shifts.

“The comment made about the ability to play cards was referring to the staff at the very rural and small critical access hospitals who may only serve a handful of patients and the staffing mandates are unnecessary,” the statement reads in part. “This was a statement amendment by the minority party to try to make a point on the floor about the bill.”

She additionally told the Tri-City Herald on Saturday that her initial comment wasn’t meant to be malicious.

“I was tired,” she told the outlet. “I said something I wish I hadn’t.”

As of Monday, the original bill was passed without the addition of the two amendments. A spokesperson from WSNA tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the union doesn’t support either of them.

“If anyone can understand how fatigue can negatively affect performance, it’s certainly nurses and other frontline caregivers in hospitals. That’s exactly what this bill is about: addressing fatigue by ensuring that nurses and techs get rest breaks,” the statement reads in part. “We continue to work on getting a bill passed that ensures rest breaks, ends abuse of mandatory overtime policies, and helps ensure that the nurses and techs caring for patients are at their best.”

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