Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

The internet is exploding with nurses who are pretty hot under the collar due to one very uninformed (or one highly lobbied) Washington senator named Maureen Walsh.

On April 16, a bill (SHB 1155) went before the Washington State Senate that would provide nurses with mandated breaks and uninterrupted meal times.

Now here’s what has nurses so ticked off. Look what this senator said in support of an amendment that would exempt critical access hospitals in rural areas form allowing nurses to have these breaks.

“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.”

Um, yeah Senator, that’s what nurses do all day. Hey, lady, when was the last time you worked a 12-hour shift with an empty stomach and a full bladder, and be on your feet for all 12 hours? And probably with a significant amount of one of your patient’s body fluids on you somewhere.

I have seen nurses do amazing, lifesaving, healing and loving things with their hands, myself included, but never once in my long career have I seen a nurse hold a playing card.

Oh, but the esteemed senator went on. She decided that if these whiny baby nurses were so tired in that 12-hour shift, and seeing she didn’t have the votes to exempt the rural hospitals, well, she added on an amendment that would limit a nurse to an eight-hour shift. “Maybe 12-hour shifts aren’t a good idea if you’re so exhausted,” she reasoned. And as insane as it seems, somehow it passed.

While the nurses could have been happy that they could actually take a break, it totally screws with their schedules and even puts their patients in danger. With each shift change is a hand-off. Fewer hand-offs mean fewer chances for error.

So, the crazy gets, well, crazier, because now the Washington State Hospital Association is posting signs in all hospital break rooms urging nurses to support killing the whole bill … sooooo that would mean losing the one thing the nurses fought for, and making the hospital association thrilled. But it may be the only way to get the 12-hour shifts back.

To add insult to injury, Walsh was quoted as saying, “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.”

Yeah, they were doing that. They just wanted to pee and put something in their stomachs. If you wind up in a Washington state hospital, Ms. Walsh, I just hope the nurses pause their poker game long enough to answer your call light. That is, unless they’re not passed out from hunger or fighting a terrible UTI!

By the way, feel free to mail Sen. Maureen Walsh a deck of cards. Her office address is: 504 15th Ave. SW, Olympia WA  98501.

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.