NEW JERSEY: New Law Bans Forced Nurse Overtime
Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature Thursday passed "first- in-the-nation" legislation that would prohibit forced overtime for nurses in hospitals and nursing homes except in emergency situations. Garden State providers -- who must compete for nurses with Philadelphia and New York hospitals that offer higher salaries -- are currently facing a nursing shortage more "critical" than elsewhere in the country, said Geri Dickson, project director of Colleagues in Caring, a collaboration between state officials and nursing groups seeking solutions to the problem. Some estimates predict that 20% of nursing positions in New Jersey will be vacant by 2006. Some hospitals' recruiting strategies include offering signing bonuses and hiring foreign workers. But with 60% of the state's 80 acute-care hospitals losing money, many are filling staffing gaps with mandatory overtime, a move that has angered nurses and raised concerns about patient care. "An exhausted nurse working the 15th hour of a double shift involuntarily is not who you want taking care of you," said Carol Chernack, spokesperson for the New Jersey State Nurses Association, which lobbied for the measure along with several nurses unions. The legislation, set to take effect next year, is now under review by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) (Johnson, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 7/3).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.