Why Sen. Walsh Said Nurses “Play Cards For A Considerable Amount Of The Day”

By | April 21, 2019

Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, right, hugs a colleague before being sworn-in Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, on the opening day of the legislative session at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A hospital is not a casino or a cruise ship. Nonetheless, Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh said the discussing a proposed state bill SHB 1155 that would mandate uninterrupted meal and rest periods for nurses: 

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. And by putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of hospitals.  I would submit to you that those (small hospital) nurses probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.

Walsh was pushing for an amendment that would exempt smaller, rural hospitals from this mandate, an amendment that was subsequently adopted. Here is a tweet with a video of Walsh’s statement:

Walsh, a Republican from Walla Walla, Washington, may wanna wanna reconsider her statement about nurses playing cards. Not surprisingly, Walsh’s statement has already received quite a reaction from nurses and those who support the well-being of nurses, which basically should be anyone with a human body. Her comments spawned the creation of a new hashtag #nursesplayingcards. One person (@LuckyLizzie) tweeted out a picture of a bloody hospital floor with the label “Last night’s card game.” Some (like @BruceWatusi) have asked people to send Walsh decks of playing cards along with stories of the nurses being overworked. Another twitterer @Lauren_CBee tweeted: “If I had a dollar for every time I had time to play cards at work… I would have zero dollars.”  A nurse from West Virginia posted her reaction on YouTube while armed with some playing cards:

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Having worked in a number of hospitals and healthcare settings, I can say that I have never seen nurses play cards at work. I have seen nurses not eat or go to the toilet all day because they were so busy. I have seen nurses stay well beyond their shift times because they were actively caring for very ill patients. I have seen nurses regularly do extra work to compensate for and cope with massive deficiencies in hospitals and clinics.

There are certainly many jobs that make you wonder, “what is that person doing all day?” Like the person who is “out of office” so often that he or she should set a “I am actually in the office” automated email response. Or the person who claims that it is his or her job to help others who are supposed to help others do their work. Or the person whose job it is to generate more paperwork.

Nursing certainly does not fall into this category. The value and impact of nurses and their skills are clear. Every day nurses help improve and save countless lives. If you don’t already, someday you will really need and depend on nurses.

It would be great if nurses actually had the time to play cards. This way they could go to the toilet and eat regularly as well. You want anyone flying your plane, preparing your food, putting out the fire in your house, or taking care of your health to be in general well-rested and happy. However, the nursing profession is facing the exact opposite situation: a burnout crisis. As a publication in the American Journal of Critical Care summarized, studies have found that “burnout scores are significantly higher for hospital nurses than for other professionals” and that “every fifth nurse reported plans to leave his or her position within 1 year.” A survey of 3,312 registered nurses conducted by the Vickie Milazzo Institute revealed that

  • 64% “rarely get 7-8 hours of sleep in a night, with 33% specifying that they ‘hardly ever’ get this much sleep in a night.
  • 77% “do not regularly eat properly” while 31% “rarely eat at least two balanced meals per day.”
  • 82% “feel that it’s difficult to strike a work-life balance, while 28% ‘always’ have work on their mind.”
  • 57% say “it can be difficult to receive the help of others at their workplace.”
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The survey did not ask about playing cards.

Instead of claiming that nurses are playing cards, legislators should be looking for ways to fix our broken health care system that is leading to the burn out of many different health professionals. After all, your health will eventually be dealt a bad hand. When this happens, you don’t want your care to depend on the luck of the draw of whether your nurse is burnt out or not.

Forbes – Healthcare