Hospitals Officials Say Mandatory Overtime for Nurses Not Ideal, but Necessary
California is one of 15 states considering legislation to ban mandatory overtime for nurses, but state hospital administrators say that the current nursing shortage "makes mandatory overtime a public-health necessity," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, California ranks last in the ratio of registered nurses to residents. Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, said, "We're not defending the concept of mandatory overtime. We're saying, in this market, we have no other option," adding that when a hospital faces a nursing shortage, "Our patients can't just pack up their stuff and go home." The California Nurses Association has said that the "staff fatigue" that results from mandatory overtime leads to a decline in the quality of patient care. But Peter Buerhaus, senior associate dean for research at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, "expressed skepticism" about this argument, saying that many nurses have supplemented their incomes through voluntary overtime "with no complaints." He added, "When hospitals mandate the overtime, then [nurses] say it's about patient safety." Citing concerns about financial implications amid the nursing shortage, the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this week "suspen[ded]" a measure (SB 1027) approved last month by the Senate Labor and Industrial Committee that would ban mandatory overtime except in emergency situations (Fong, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.