US senator rebuked for saying some nurses ‘probably play cards’ while at work

Maureen Walsh has received 1,700 packs of cards from nurses after her comment went viral

Maureen Walsh has received 1,700 packs of cards from nurses after her comment went viral

Senator Maureen Walsh with boxes of playing cards she has been sent in the post

A United States senator who was criticised for suggesting nurses ‘probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day’ while at work has accepted a call to shadow a nurse on a 12-hour shift.

Since the comment from Washington State Republican senator Maureen Walsh went viral, more than 750,000 people have signed an online petition calling on her to accompany a nurse at work.

About 1,700 packs of playing cards were also sent to her office from nurses across the country.

Mandatory breaks

Ms Walsh made the comment when requesting an amendment to a bill to provide nurses with mandatory uninterrupted rest and meal breaks, and overtime protection, regardless of the size of the hospital they work in.

Ms Walsh backed an amendment that would make smaller, rural ‘critical access’ hospitals exempt from the proposed legislation.

Controversial remark

During a debate at the Washington State Senate on 16 April, Ms 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.’

Ms Walsh has since apologised for her remark.

In a response to Ms Walsh’s comments, director of nursing practice and health policy at the Washington State Nurses Association, Mathew Keller, branded her remarks as ‘disrespectful and patronising’.

He continued: ‘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.’

Ms Walsh has released a statement saying she wants to ‘reel’ her comments back.

‘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,’ she said.

‘My mother was a registered nurse, and I know from personal experience the long hours she worked sacrificing to provide for her family.’

Clearing the decks

Ms Walsh said she will be glad to accept the shift challenge requested in the petition.

She added that she plans to give the decks of cards she has received to nursing homes and military veterans. 

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