Walsh said, "Those nurses probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." Nurses aren't having any of this.
Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh seems to be facing severe backlash from over half a million people after she made a rather insensitive comment about nurses. According to CNN, Walsh said that nurses in smaller hospitals "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." During a debate on the Washington state Senate floor on Tuesday, Senator Maureen 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."
The state Senate was considering a bill, SHB 1155, that would provide nurses with uninterrupted meals and periods of rest. Walsh, who is a Republican, was arguing in support of an amendment which would exempt critical access hospitals in rural areas, and hospitals with less than 25 beds from the bill. "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," said Walsh.
Walsh's comments about the nursing community obviously did not go down too well with them, and the Washington State Nurses Association called Walsh's remarks "demeaning" and said there is "zero logic" in covering nurses in some hospitals, "while leaving others without any protections." In a post on the union's website, Mathew Keller, WSNA's director of nursing practice and health policy, said: No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community.
Keller also added that making such an amendment to the bill would make it harder to recruit nurses to rural areas as well. Walsh had reportedly also added an amendment to a bill that would prohibit nurses from working for more than eight hours. "Well, if we have an issue with nurses getting tired, let's quit letting them do 12-hour shifts, let's let them do 8-hour shifts. Like most standard shifts are," said Walsh on Tuesday.
"Twelve hours, I know they want it, but then they come back and they start talking out of both sides of the mouth and telling us how tired they are," she added. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the SHB 1155, 30-18, but even with the two amendments included, Walsh voted against the bill. WSNA is in full support of the bill but they are against the two amendments. The union has promised to try and remove them from the bill.
Walsh responded to the backlash, asserting that she has the "greatest respect for nurses" and that her mother was a registered nurse for many years."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," Walsh said in a lengthy statement.
Chicago nurse Juliana Bindas, one of the many who was outraged by Walsh's comments, started an online petition. It calls on Walsh to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift. As of Monday afternoon, more than 582,000 people had signed the petition. "We put our heart and soul into our careers, and (Walsh's) comments are incredibly far-fetched as to what actually happens," Bindas told CNN. She currently works as a pediatric nurse, and previously was an oncology nurse for two years.
"We join this career because we want to help patients and help people," said Bindas. "We deserve a safe work environment that is healthy for us." Her daily routine includes placing orders for medical equipment as well as taking care of the patients admitted in the hospital. Several angry nurses have flooded Walsh's Facebook page with comments, many with the hashtag, #dontmesswithnurses and also trolled her by posing with cards. Bindas also added she was extremely happy with the response on the petition and is now considering planning a rally for nurses nationwide to attend.