Federal Legislation Would Ban Mandatory Overtime for Nurses
Under the Registered Nurses and Patients Protection Act (HR 5179) introduced yesterday by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), nurses would no longer be required to work overtime, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Although the bill does not affect voluntary overtime, the measure would bar employers from requiring nurses to work more than eight hours per day or more than 80 hours in a 14-day period. The bill would allow mandatory overtime in cases of declared states of emergency or natural disaster. Lantos said, "Common sense tells us that forced overtime puts patients at great risk. And at a time when hospitals are trying to reduce medical errors, forced overtime makes no sense." However, the American Organization of Nurse Executives opposes a ban on mandatory overtime, although the group considers the practice a "last resort." The organization's president, Dianne Anderson, said, "We have a severe nursing shortage in this country. This has really moved to a health care emergency with hospitals across the country closing beds and diverting ambulances." Jill Forillo of the California Nurses' Association said that the bill may help reduce the nursing shortage, citing mandatory overtime as one of the reasons why many nurses do not work in hospitals. If forced overtime is eliminated, nurses might return to work in hospitals, Forillo added(CongressDaily/A.M., 3/30).