Nurses: Life Savers Not Card Players

Nurses took to social media to share their frustrations over a comment made by Washington State Senator, Maureen Walsh (R). The senator was discussing a proposed ammendment of a current bill that looks to give nurses mandated breaks and limit mandatory overtime. Let’s discuss the bill, the comments, the problem with this type of language about nurses, and why all of us should care.

The Bill

SHB 155 is a bill that would give mandated rest periods and meal breaks to nurses and technicians including RNs, LPNs, surgical techs, cardiovascular invasive technologist, respiratory therapist and nursing assistants. It also would regulate overtime and prohibit overtime being used for scheduling nonemergency procedures. A recent amendment to the bill, which is strongly opposed by the Washington State Hospital Association, would limit nurses to working only 8 hours out of a 24 hour period. The restriction would be a strict requirement, with no exemption for emergencies. This would totally change the staffing of a hospital and work schedule where most techs and nurses typically work 12 hour shifts. The amendment also looks to exclude techs from the mandatory breaks.

The Comment

Senator Maureen Walsh (Washington State-R) was discussing the current bill and its relationship to critical access hospitals in Washington State that only care for a “handful” of patients.

“I understand helping with employees and making sure that we have rest breaks and things like that. But I also understand we need to care for patients first and foremost. And 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. But the reality is- this bill does not apply to critical access hospitals. Please support this amendment and help out some of the underserved areas of the state.”

Senator Maureen Walsh (Washington State-R)

The use of this language and the problem caused with nurses

There is SO much I could say about these comments. It makes my heart hurt and angry to read them. You are talking about my people. The ones I love. The people who are next to me during codes, rapid responses, repositioning my patient’s in my bed,. Some of the best people around. This is a blog and not a research paper, so I will try to keep my thoughts short and concise.

The first insulting and hurtful comment that caused the (justified) uproar on social media was that we play cards for a considerable part of the day. First off, I think me and any other floor nurse in the U.S. would LOVE to invite the senator to come shadow us for a day and see what it is a nurse does. Because I can guarantee you, it does not involve playing cards. We titrate drips. Administer medications. Assist with procedures. Hold the hand of a grieving love one. Watch someone take their first breath. Watch someone take their last breath. The list is never-ending of the live nurses touch in a day and the patient’s that touch theirs.

The second is the language used to describe why the nurses in critical access hospitals do not deserve breaks. Saying things like “we need to care for patients first and foremost” and they only care for a “handful of patients” is classic language that has been used to force nurses to work harder with fewer resources for years. It is using out compassion and care for patients against us. Yes, we want patients cared for. It’s what nurses do, we care for patients. We are the patient advocates. That is why they are asking for breaks. It doesn’t matter if you work in a small, rural hospital or a level 1 trauma center. The nurses deserve to eat, use the restroom, and have a moment to breath and recollect on a shift. It allows for nurses and techs to provide safer and better care for the patient.

Why we should care

According to the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) there are over 4 million Registered Nurses in the U.S. and over 920,000 LPNs. Nurses are also the largest health care occupation. Even if the change does not affect you, we HAVE to support each other. This is the only way we will begin to make true change in nursing. I love my job. I work for a good hospital on a unit I love. However, this doesn’t mean that other nurses are not hurting or being treated unfairly.

If you ask a new graduate nurse (or even experienced nurse) what their future plans are- they immediately talk about graduate school. Or at least leaving clinical nursing, especially in the hospital. I love NPs, Nurse Educators, Clinical Nurse Specialist, etc. Higher education is GREAT. However, someone has to care at the bedside! Therefore, this is a concerning issue. A multifactorial issue that involves more than stress at the bedside, but stress at the bedside does play a role. Nurses are leaving the bedside in pacts and part of it has to be with work environment: no breaks, stressful shifts, lack of support. Supporting bills regarding safe staffing ratios or mandated breaks helps to improve the work environment of bedside nurses and could lead to encouraging nurses to stay.

The amendments added to this bill should be opposed and are possibly a way to get the bill to fail entirely. 12 hour shifts are long, yes, but also give nurses a lot of flexibility and time off away from the job. A much-needed benefit in a job where you literally are responsible for people lives and see people through some of the worst moment of their lives. And a tech works just as hard as a nurse- and deserves a break just as much as a nurse. Everyone who is caring for patient’s deserves a break. It results in better and safer patient care and a healthier and happier health care worker.

What we can do

The Washington State Nurses Association also opposes these added amendments to the bill and has provided an easy to use form to tell legislature about your opposition to the bill. I strongly encourage you if you are in the state of Washington to voice your concerns. I also encourage ALL nurses, no matter what state you are in, to take a moment to voice your support of nurses in Washington and help educate Senator Walsh on what a nurse does during a 12 hour shift. Education is key to changing public perception of nursing.

Aside from reaching out to legislature, educate people on what it is a nurse does in a day. Educate our education, our skills, our critical thinking. I also encourage you to share with your family and friends though conversation and social media about this bill, the amendment that needs to be changed, and why Senator Walsh’s comments are wrong. Nurses recently came together in NYC and through negotiations they were able to avoid a strike and begin negotiations for safer staffing. 

Nurses are a strong and powerful force and when we come together, amazing things can happen. CHANGE can happen. We advocate for out patients, it’s time we begin to advocate for ourselves and our profession. Advocating for nurses is advocating for patients and their safety.



Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (2015). Nurses have highest employment in healthcare occupations. Retrieved from:

National Council of State Boards of Nursing. (n.d.) Active RN licenses. Retrieved from:

Sauer, C. SB155 passes senate with an amendment that restricts nurses to 8-hour shifts. Retrieved from:

Walker, A. (2019). Senator remarks go viral: Nurses “play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” Retrieved from: