In perhaps one of the most demeaning state­ments on the nursing profes­sion since Joy Behar’s 2015 doctor’s stetho­scope” comments on The View, Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh proclaimed on the Senate floor that Critical Access Hospital nurses should be exempt from protec­tions in manda­tory overtime because they sit around and play cards most of the day:

“I understand… 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… I would submit to you that those [critical access hospital] nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!”
– -Sen. Maureen Walsh 4/16/19 comments on SHB 1155, a bill eliminating loopholes in mandatory overtime

Ignoring for a moment the incred­ibly disre­spectful and patron­izing nature of Sen. Walsh’s remarks, it’s evident that she misun­der­stands the purpose and function of the bill. Manda­tory overtime isn’t just an abhor­rent employer practice: it’s also a terrible patient care practice.

Study after study show that unplanned overtime assign­ments have a high poten­tial to be unsafe. Working more than 10 hours in a given day, when unplanned, results in lower quality of care, higher RN burnout, decreased patient satis­fac­tion, and increased errors.

That’s why, ultimately, there is zero logic behind an amend­ment to the rest breaks bill that would cover nurses and patients in some hospi­tals, while leaving others without any protec­tions. 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.

No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards. They are taking care of your neigh­bors, your family, your commu­nity. And they do read the research: manda­tory overtime is bad for patient care and it’s bad for your rural hospi­tals. With all due respect, Sen. Walsh: perhaps it’s time for you to put down the cards and pick up the literature.

If you’re a nurse who doesn’t play cards for a consid­er­able amount of the day, you can email your legis­lator about this issue here: https://​p2a​.co/​E​D​v6Ikt.