OLYMPIA, Wash. (CBS Local) — A lawmaker in Washington state who angered nurses by saying some of them spend a lot of time playing cards in rural hospitals has agreed to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift. State Sen. Maureen Walsh, a Republican, made the comment April 16 during a debate about House Bill 1155, which would provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest periods.
“I would submit to you those nurses probably do get breaks,” Walsh said April 16. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”
Outraged by Walsh’s comments, pediatric nurse Juliana Bindas created an online petition Saturday that called on Walsh to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift.
“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.
In just days, more than 650,000 people signed the petition. However, Walsh said she was arguing for an amendment that would exclude small, rural hospitals — and says her comments were taken out of context.
“When I made my comment I was just trying to draw a differentiation between how this policy would apply in a very small critical access hospital in rural Washington versus one of our bigger hospitals because I certainly didn’t mean to imply nurses are playing cards all day. I love nurses.”
Nevertheless, Walsh apologized and accepted the challenge.
“If I could ever reel back in a comment, that would be the one,” said Walsh. “I had been on a 12-hour shift that day when I made that comment and I was tired and exhausted and in retrospect I wish I would’ve used a little bit better analogy.”
Walsh had also introduced an amendment to the bill that would prohibit nurses from working more than eight hours.
The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate 30-18 with the two amendments included. Walsh voted against the bill.
The bill had passed the House last month without the amendment. Legislators must now reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill before sending it to the governor’s desk for consideration.