Senator apologizes for remarks about nurses 'playing cards'

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Sen. Maureen Walsh is now apologizing for comments she made about nurses playing cards on the job.

“If I could ever reel back in a comment, that would be the one,” Walsh said.

The Walla Walla representative made the comments Tuesday during a debate on the Senate floor in Olympia.

"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,” she said.

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In just days, more than 650,000 people signed online petitions demanding Walsh shadow a nurse for a 12 hour shift.

"You save lives, this is what you do every day. When people come in and they're sick they expect you to be able to look after them and when someone insinuates that they're not doing that, it's very upsetting,” said nurse Jane Hopkins.

Walsh was discussing SHB 1155, a measure that mandates breaks for nurses. She was arguing for an amendment that would exclude small, rural hospitals and said 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,” said Walsh. “I certainly didn't mean to imply nurses are playing cards all day. I love nurses.”

Supporters of the bill hope the new attention helps get the measure passed this week.

"I think you can tell by the reaction a lot of people were upset but now it's really time to ask the legislature to move and to pass the bill,” said Sarah Cherin, UFCW Local 21 executive vice president.