Nurse leaders in Massachusetts celebrated a victory after Gov. Deval Patrick signed a healthcare law that prohibits mandatory overtime for nurses. Studies have shown that mandatory nurse overtime increases risk for errors, endangers patients and adds to the cost of healthcare. Seventeen states now prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses either by law or by regulation.
In a Nurseconnect.com article, Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurse Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), said, “Nurses want to get up, prepare for their shift, take the best care of their patients and then know that there is relief at the end, that there is somebody to carry on the care of that patient to a successful outcome.”
Hospitals are prevented, except in the case of a declared emergency, from demanding a nurse work past scheduled shift or work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Nurses can, however, refuse to work the extra hours without fear of retribution. The law is effective in November. The American Nurses Association lists the states that have identified the restrictions (see sidebar).
Advocates say this legislation will reduce nurse fatigue, promote better staffing, encourage nurse retention and provide cost savings.
A 2011 study, published in Health Services Research, found that having more RNs on the hospital unit, working less overtime correlated to fewer patient readmissions or emergency room visits within 30 days of discharge, resulting in fewer costs.