Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh (R) apologized Monday after receiving heated backlash for claiming last week that nurses in small, rural hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount” of their work shifts.
“I was tired, and in the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context ― but still they crossed the line,” Walsh said in a statement. “I really don’t believe nurses at our critical access hospitals spend their days playing cards, but I did say it, and I wish I could reel it back.”
Nurses and nationwide organizations representing them tore into Walsh for her remarks last week during the state Senate’s consideration of SHB 1155, which would provide nurses with uninterrupted breaks for meals and rest. Walsh argued for an amendment to exclude small, rural hospitals from the requirement.
“I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks,” Walsh said on the Senate floor. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”
A change.org petition calling for Walsh to follow a nurse at a local hospital for a full 12-hour shift has garnered over 650,000 signatures. Walsh said in her statement that she would accept the offer to “walk a mile in her shoes.”
“I have the greatest respect for nurses, for their hard work, tremendous compassion, and the excellent care they gave me when I ended up in the hospital last year,” Walsh said. “My mother was an RN, and I know from personal experience the long hours she worked sacrificing to provide for her family.”
Washington’s House passed SHB 1155 on March 6. The Senate approved it March 16, including Walsh’s amendment excluding small, rural hospitals from the uninterrupted breaks requirement. The measure also includes another Walsh-backed amendment limiting the number of hours nurses can work in a 24-hour period.
The Washington State Nurses Association vehemently opposes both amendments, calling them “unworkable for most hospitals and unfair to nurses.”
Legislators must now reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill before a final version can be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for consideration.