Federal Bill Would Limit Mandatory Nurse Overtime

                                                          By Ashleigh Hollowell 

A bipartisan bill that limits mandatory overtime for nurses, originally proposed in 2020, has been reintroduced. It also shields nurses from retaliation from hospitals if nurses turn down overtime.

The bill was introduced again March 5 by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Reps. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and Jen Kiggans, MSN, R-Va. Eighteen states have similar laws restricting mandatory overtime for nurses, but if the Nurse Overtime and Patient Safety Act passes, those restrictions would apply nationwide.

"As a nurse practitioner, I know that staffing shortages and hectic schedules have forced healthcare systems across the country to require long overtime hours for nurses," Ms.Kiggans stated in the joint news release. "The extended shifts our nurses are often required to work out of necessity can cause fatigue and impaired vigilance that is not good for nurses nor their patients."

So far, more than 40 organizations have backed the legislation.

"There is no singular fix to the problems facing the nursing workforce," Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, the acting chief nursing officer said in a statement. "Rather, improving the lives of nurses demands a national dialogue and ongoing legislative efforts. This act is an example of how powerful collaboration between health care leaders and Congress can be in the effort to adequately support the nation’s nurses and the patients they care for."

There are exceptions to the proposed bill. During emergency situations, nurses can be asked to work overtime if certain conditions are met, like if all efforts have been made to bring in other staff and the duration of expected overtime is not to extend past when the emergency or disaster is resolved, for example.

Nurses would also be able to come forward as whistleblowers and report if the hospital is not following the new guidelines.

Hospitals and health systems that violate the guidance proposed in the bill could be fined $10,000 per violation.

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