During a discussion on the Washington state Senate floor this week about a bill to mandate uninterrupted meal/rest breaks and overtime protection for nurses, one legislator complained that small hospital nurses don’t need uninterrupted breaks because all they do anyway is play cards all day.
State Sen. Maureen Walsh, a purported Republican who just happens to be in favor of gay marriage, issued the widely panned remarks while trying to argue in favor of an amendment to SHB 1155 that would exempt small “critical access hospitals” that serve rural communities.
Because small “critical access hospitals,” which remain open 24/7, are the only source of medical care available for rural patients, requiring full breaks for their safes would be unsafe, she argued.
“I understand helping with employees and making sure we have rest breaks and things like that,” she said. “But I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost.”
“And by putting these kinds of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you, those nurses do probably get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day, but the reality is this bill does not apply to critical access hospitals.”
While Walsh’s heart may have been in the right place, what with her concern for rural patients, Washington state’s estimated 68,657 registered nurses, as of 2016, and America’s estimated 2.86 million nurses, as of 2016, were not trying to hear any excuses or rationalizations.
“No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community,” the Washington State Nurses Association said in a statement, adding that her comments were “incredibly disrespectful and patronizing.”
National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in America, has also weighed in.
“Trust me, nurses haven’t earned the title ‘most trusted profession’ for seventeen years running by ‘playing cards’ on our shifts. WA Sen. Maureen Walsh should be ashamed to use #nurses to score cheap political points like this. #1U #nurseslife,” Bonnie Castillo, the group’s executive director, tweeted.
Trust me, nurses haven’t earned the title “most trusted profession” for seventeen years running by “playing cards” on our shifts. WA Sen. Maureen Walsh should be ashamed to use #nurses to score cheap political points like this. #1U #nurseslife pic.twitter.com/ucm89ezpDj
— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) April 19, 2019
What appears to be literally thousands of additional nurses have responded as well:
Senator Maureen Walsh… here’s a picture of me “playing cards”
— Christy Silva Taylor (@Chrisfabs) April 19, 2019
— Lyz ©️ 🍀 (@LuckyLyzzie) April 20, 2019
— Recovering_MattyRN (@matt23hendren) April 20, 2019
— KJ (@jemappelle_kj) April 20, 2019
Senator Maureen Walsh – Us nurses don’t play games. We also don’t eat, drink, or pee for 12 hours at a time, because we are too busy saving lives!
#MaureenWalsh #nursesdontplaycards pic.twitter.com/1if8usITHp
— Shelley (@ShelleyLBI) April 20, 2019
You have no idea how hard Nurses work! How we go 12 hours most days without getting to go to the bathroom. How many times we are starving but don’t have time to eat because we care about our patients more. There is a reason we are the most trusted profession!#SenatorMaureenWalsh
— Lora (@managerlora) April 20, 2019
There’s some irony to what Walsh had said. She essentially impugned the character of small hospital nurses, correct? Yet according to 2018 polling data from Gallup, nurses, in general, are considered to be among the most trusted professionals in terms of “honesty and ethical standards.”
An 84 percent majority of Americans place a “very high/high” degree of trust in nurses. Conversely, only an 8 percent minority of Americans place as much trust in politicians such as Walsh.
During her widely panned speech on the Washington state Senate floor this week, Walsh also slammed nurses for “talking out both sides of their mouth.”
She issued the equally offensive remarks while speaking out in favor of yet another amendment that would reportedly prohibit all nurses in the state from working more than eight hours per day.
“Well, if we have an issue with nurses getting tired, let’s quit letting them do 12-hour shifts, let’s make them do 8-hour shifts,” she said. “12 hours, I know they want it but, then they come back and start talking out of both sides of their mouth and telling us how tired they are.”
This too hasn’t been well-received by the nursing community:
Maureen Walsh should also be ashamed for trying to dramatically restructure our schedules (8 hour vs. 12 hour shifts) as a punishment for needing a 30 minute lunch break. Every worker is entitled to their breaks, regardless of the length of their shift. https://t.co/IN8faRhMdS
— socialist nurse (@socialistnurse1) April 19, 2019
Senator Maureen Walsh… Nurses take a lot of breaks and they are playing cards? Ridiculous ignorance. 8 hour shifts jeapordize continuity of patient care. I am not sure how you were elected but thank GOD you don’t represent my state or community. #Heartless #MaureenWalsh
— Meredith Heyde (@MeredithHeyde) April 19, 2019
maureen walsh 12 hr. shifts are for continuity of care for the safety of patients. As are breaks so we don’t make mistakes. Educate yourself.
— Delores (@desteele2112) April 20, 2019
Maureen Walsh will never be as important as the nurses, EMTs, and doctors who save lives everyday. Who work 12 hour shifts DAYS in a role. How could you speak such ignorance on something that you’ll never understand?
— Samantha Rogers (@SmnthRgrs) April 20, 2019
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