Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle U’s Nursing Department Reacts To WA State Nursing Bill


When the Washington State nursing bill SHB1155 passed last week, the nursing department at Seattle University had a more positive response to the bill compared to the more critical stance from many nurses outside of the university. The key components in the bill include granting uninterrupted meal and break time to the nurses and restricting nurses to eight-hour shifts. In general, the nursing department is in favor of the bill.

“Having a mandatory break definitely will help nurses to save more patients because overtired nurses are more likely to make medication errors,” Sharon Zhang, a second-year nursing major student said. “After all, nurses are humans. They need mental break and self-care, which includes basic needs such as eating foods and taking rests.”

Zhang’s recognition of the value of granting uninterrupted meal and break time to nurses resonated with other nursing students as well. Students in the department generally reached the consensus that giving nurses mandatory breaks is the right thing to do, because overworking can harm both nurses and the patients, which is the last situation they want to see.



Nevertheless, granting mandatory breaks has costs. Zhang responded to the bill with some concerns, as she doubts that this task is achievable.

“The negative portions for granting mandatory break is higher costs for the hospital to hire more adequate nurses,” Zhang said.

Although Zhang doesn’t have much clinical experience yet, she was informed by multiple nursing professors in the school that being under-staffed is always an issue in many hospitals.

Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh believes the opposite as she argues that “nurses probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”

This perspective provoked huge disagreement and anger in the nursing department, as it displayed great ignorance and disrespect to the well-educated and highly motivated nurses.

“Nurses are on the front lines of healthcare delivery and the health of communities,” Carrie Miller, director of the clinical performance lab said. “We strive for excellence and in my 30 years as a nurse…I have never seen a deck of cards come out.”

Peter Hoang, a junior nursing student responded to the statement similarly.

“She is insulting a profession that dedicates their entire heart to the patient. For me, going to the nursing major is already very hard,” Hoang said. “I only undertake the pressure to take care of patients in the future more effectively, not to play cards.”

While Walsh’s objection to the bill is inappropriate and problematic in nature, her comments bring up an interesting dilemma: Does the public really know what nurses do? Hoang believes the answer is a no.

“Since nurses are underrepresented in the medical field, there is a lack of deep understanding of what nurses are actually doing. Nurses’ daily job is more exhausted than others’ imagination.”

Luckily, there are more reasonable people in the world that support granting longer rest times for nurses, which is why the restriction to eight- hour shifts was included in the bill. Although the nursing department acknowledges the good intentions behind the change, they believe it will be better if this component can be more flexible.

“As professionals, nurses should have the option to work 8, 10, 12- hour shifts. I do believe research will continue to guide best practice based on patient outcomes and risk reduction strategies,” Miller said.

Miller’s advocation for flexible choices regarding hour shifts resonates with other nursing students as they also believe that the patient needs to come first in the hospital, even if it means they must forgo their own needs.

“Restrictions to eight-hour shifts are bad for the patients, especially if nurses are helping in the operations,” Hoang said. “To be honest, I can only work for eight hours in Starbucks, but as a nurse, the advocate for patients, I am willing to work more because no one will die from not drinking a cup of coffee in Starbucks, but people will die in the hospital if I didn’t help in the urgent situation.”

While the SHB1155 bill may not be the perfect solution to best meet the needs of nurses, create work-life balance and risk reduction, the nursing department at Seattle U appreciated its good intent, as it recognized nurses contributions to the patient, which are sometimes omitted from society. For people such as Walsh, who doubts nurses’ dedication in their work, the department believes she should learn the facts before making irresponsible comments.

The editor may be reached at
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