A state Senator in Washington is facing backlash this week after she made the claim that nurses spend a portion of their day on shift playing cards, according to the Tri-City Herald. Republican Maureen Walsh was discussing a bill that would give nurses meals and breaks without interruption – something that can be difficult for many in the profession – when she argued that some hospitals should be exempt from the requirements because some nurses “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”
Walsh was weighing in on SHB 1155, which was ultimately adopted, when she made the controversial claim. She says that she believes any small or rural hospitals should be exempt from the rule because the nurses there probably aren’t busy all day anyway.
“I understand… 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,” she said. “I would submit to you that those [critical access hospital] nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!”
The Washington State Nurse’s Association responded with a scathing post on their website that tackled the lawmaker’s statement. In it, the WSNA calls the comments disrespectful and patronizing and says that it is clear Walsh doesn’t understand the basic purpose of the bill, nor how it fill function in the real world.
“Mandatory overtime isn’t just an abhorrent employer practice: it’s also a terrible patient care practice,” the post begins.
The response goes on to explain to the Senator that unplanned hours in a day beyond 10 hours results in burnout, more errors, a decrease in patient satisfaction, and a lower quality of care overall.
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! #Nurse #NurseLife https://t.co/sXvhXwqDrf— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) April 19, 2019
The post argues that there is no point making the law for some hospitals and not others, and it would make it harder to recruit nurses to positions that don’t protect workers from overtime.
“No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community,” the post concluded. “With all due respect, Sen. Walsh: perhaps it’s time for you to put down the cards and pick up the literature.”
The WSNA then cheekily urges any nurses who don’t play cards all day to email their local legislator to express their opinion about Walsh’s comments and the issue of protecting nurse’s breaks.
The post got so much attention that the association’s website crashed for part of the day. Nurses across the internet responded with the reality of their daily shifts, mocking the senator’s comments.
Senator Maureen Walsh... here’s a picture of me “playing cards”— Christy Silva Taylor (@Chrisfabs) April 19, 2019
I was scrubbed in a 6 hour open heart surgery a couple days ago. No breaks, no bathroom break... and definitely no game of gin rummy. #nursesplayingcards #wesavelives pic.twitter.com/KO0XfeBYW5