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State lawmaker will accept invite to shadow nurse after ‘playing cards’ comment

Sen. Maureen Walsh speaking in the Legislature on April 16. (TVW)

UPDATE: Senator Maureen Walsh says she has learned of a petition urging her to spend a day shadowing a nurse on a 12-hour shift.

“I look forward to receiving it and am happy to accept,” she said in a recent written statement.

Regarding a recent comment where she said that nurses in rural hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable part of their day,” Sen. Walsh was apologetic.

“Do I wish I could reel back the ‘play cards’ comment? You bet I do,” she told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “I was very tired. We’ve been working on the floor a lot lately and when I made that comment I thought, ‘I probably could have analogized that a little better.'”

— Original story —

Republican State Senator Maureen Walsh caught flack over the weekend, following recent comments she made surmising that nurses in rural hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable part of the day.”

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The comment was made as part of an April 16 debate over HB 1155, a bill that would give nurses mandated, uninterrupted breaks, and close loopholes that could potentially allow hospitals to require overtime.

Sen. Walsh represents Washington’s 16th district, encompassing Walla Walla, Columbia, and Benton Counties. Over the course of the bill’s life in Olympia, she’s argued that hospitals in low-population areas like her district should be exempted from the mandated break requirement.

Regarding her statement about nurses playing cards, she noted that it was part of her larger argument concerning the need for a rural hospital exemption.

“I was making a comment about the fact that they’re not as busy as these big urban hospitals, and therefore this bill would be egregious to them to try to comply with,” she told MyNorthwest on Thursday.

Speaking to the Tri-City Herald, Sen. Walsh walked that back slightly.

“I was tired — I said something I wish I hadn’t,” she said to the Herald.

A recent blog from the Washington State Nurses Association argued that exempting rural hospitals would only exacerbate the difficulty in recruiting nurses outside of dense, urban areas.

“There’s a reason it’s so hard to recruit nurses to rural facilities – exempting them from laws requiring uninterrupted breaks and subjecting them to mandatory overtime would just make it worse,” it reads.

Over the weekend, a Change.org petition to have Sen. Walsh shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift gathered over 500,000 signatures.

Walsh also drew the ire of many nurses in a separate incident last week, when an amendment she proposed limiting nurses to eight-hour shifts unexpectedly passed.

“I fully expected a rousing ‘no’ on my amendment,” she told MyNorthwest. “I never dreamed that the amendment would hang.”

She had originally proposed the amendment “to simply say, that if the argument on behalf of this bill is nurses are experiencing exhaustion and fatigue, then perhaps the shifts are too long.”

Democrats in the state House are currently working to remove both the rural hospital exemption and the eight-hour shift limit from the bill.

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