With the recent bad weather and the East coast blizzard, there is a need for nurses to work a lot of overtime. Is mandatory overtime legal?
For your answer to that question, you will have to check with your State Labor Department. Each State has different requirements. For example: in New York there is a State law that protects nurses from being forced to work overtime. [New York State Department of Labor NYS DOL §167] To see if your state has mandatory overtime legislation, check out the American Nurses Association website at http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/State/Legislative-Agenda-Reports/MandatoryOvertime/Mandatory-Overtime-Summary-of-State-Approaches.html
Can nurses be forced to stay at the hospital even if they are not working? Again, this is a question for your State’s Department of Labor.
The Texas Department of State Health Services mandates overtime in the Lone Star State. Hospitals there are not allowed to use on-call time as mandatory overtime. If a Texas nurse is asked to work on-call all the time, that is not the purpose of this mandate.
Mandatory overtime can be dangerous. When nurses are unable to refuse the extra hours, they may become fatigued and feel that they will not be able to deliver adequate, safe care which also affects patient care.
The American Academy of Nurses conducted research in the 1980s where mandatory overtime resulted in
- an increase in medication errors,
- a decrease in safe, quality patient care
- a decrease in patient satisfaction
- an increase in length of hospital stays
- an increase in mortality and morbidity
- a decrease in recruitment of new nurses
- a decrease in retention of nurses and
- an increase in legal liability issues against nurses. [Research by Linda Aiken]
However, most States that do have legislation prohibiting nurses from working mandatory overtime likely have some kind of an exception as in the event of a mass casualty situation or unexpected natural disaster like a blizzard.
Excessive mandatory overtime leads to reduced staff morale which, in turn, contributes to job burnout that reduces staff retention and creates nursing vacancies or forces the remaining nurses to work more overtime. Therefore, mandatory overtime increases nurse dissatisfaction and burnout, ultimately worsening the staffing shortage.
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses promotes positive approaches including the hiring of more R.N.s and utilizing strategies to recruit and retain more R.N.s.
Explain to your administrators that mandatory overtime is not an acceptable means of staffing a hospital because it can place nurses and patients at increased risk for errors. Studies have shown that a work shift that exceeds 12 hours will increase fatigue and grow the likelihood of making errors.
If you have to speak to administration about mandatory overtime issues, speak to them in a win-win manner. Rather than coming right out and saying that mandatory overtime is dangerous, you can ask administration if you both can work together on a solution. Don’t hesitate to show them studies presenting how mandatory overtime can increase errors and fatigue as well as decrease staff retention.
Also, check with your Department of Labor to make sure that your facility is complying with the laws.
Are there any strategies that you use to assist with mandatory overtime? If so, I would like to hear your comments below.