Sen. Edward Kennedy Introduces Bill To Limit Mandatory Overtime for Nurses
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) last week introduced legislation that would penalize hospitals for requiring nurses to work mandatory overtime after completing scheduled shifts, the Boston Globe reports.
The bill would call for up to $10,000 in civil penalty fines against hospitals that violate the law, and nurses could file complaints about overtime violations to HHS. After investigating claims, HHS could impose fines on hospitals and raise fines against repeat violators. Nurses could work overtime voluntarily, and the law would not apply in a government-declared state of emergency.
Kennedy said in a statement that the bill is intended to improve patient safety and to encourage more young people to enter the nursing profession. He added that U.S. hospitals are experiencing a shortfall of 126,000 registered nurses. The bill likely will "face an uphill battle" in the Republican-led Congress, the Globe reports.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association has "aggressively" lobbied against mandatory overtime, according to the Globe. MNA Executive Director Julie Pinkham said nurses "are given obscene assignments, and then ... are burned out. We don't want shifts forced on people who are overtired."
However, Paul Wingle, senior director of communications for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said the bill's restrictions "would impair the ability of caregivers to meet the demands of patients on the spot." He added that the association has endorsed an agenda including the elimination of mandated overtime as a routine practice (Lewis, Boston Globe, 2/15).