(CNN) — More than half a million people think Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh needs a better understanding of what nurses do on a daily basis.
The Republican lawmaker came under fire after saying last week that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day” during a debate about legislation that would provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest periods.
Outraged by Walsh’s comments, Chicago nurse Juliana Bindas created an online petition Saturday that calls on Walsh to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift. More than 582,000 people had signed the petition as of Monday afternoon.
“We put our heart and soul into our careers, and (Walsh’s) comments are incredibly far-fetched as to what actually happens,” Bindas told CNN.
Bindas currently works as a pediatric nurse and previously was an oncology nurse for two years. She said her daily responsibilities include placing medical product orders, studying patients’ care plans, administering medication, providing emotional care and ensuring patients are comfortable.
“We join this career because we want to help patients and help people,” Bindas said. “We deserve a safe work environment that is healthy for us.”
Walsh did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The lawmaker called her comments “unnecessary” and said she has the “greatest respect for nurses” in a statement Friday to CNN affiliate KEPR TV.
Walsh was arguing in support of an amendment that would exempt rural and smaller hospitals from a bill that would guarantee uninterrupted breaks for nurses. She had also introduced another amendment to the bill that would prohibit nurses from working more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday with both amendments included. Walsh voted against the bill.
Angry nurses have flooded Walsh’s Facebook page with comments, many with the hashtag, #dontmesswithnurses.
Bindas said she felt “incredibly happy” about the response to the petition because nurses have spoken up about issues they care about, such as safe staffing, workplace violence and mandatory breaks. She added that she is considering planning a rally for nurses nationwide to attend.