Governor bans mandatory overtime for nurses

To reduce fatigue-induced medical errors and enhance working conditions at hospitals, New York State will ban mandatory overtime for nurses.
The law prohibiting the state’s health care facilities from requiring nurses to work beyond their regularly scheduled hours was signed by New York State Governor David Paterson on Wednesday, August 13.
“Our members across the state have told us that employer-mandated overtime is endangering their patients,” said Tina Gerardi, CEO of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which has been lobbying for this bill for eight years.
Besides improving patient care, the new bill will help address the nation’s nurse shortage, rather than deepen it, because it will improve working conditions, which in turn will attract more people to the nursing profession, Paterson explained.
“There is no empirical data, but we do know that many of our members would go to work and would have no idea when they would be allowed to leave,” said Nancy Webber, NYSNA spokesperson. Mandatory overtime could cause burnout and is one reason why many nurses choose to leave the profession, Webber explained.
Scheduled to take effect next July, the legislation will not place a specific cap on the number of daily and weekly regular working hours that individual hospitals can require, Paterson said.
The bill will allow nurses to work overtime voluntarily; it will not apply under certain conditions such as disasters, which increase the demand for nursing services, Paterson explained. The bill will also not apply when a nurse is performing an ongoing procedure or in situations when patient care is needed and no other staff is available, Paterson added.
Eleven other states have this law, from places as close as New Jersey and Connecticut to locations as far away as Oregon, Webber said.
During the first year, the costs of the legislation - arising from bigger staffing investments which will be partially offset by lower overtime expenses - are expected to amount to $8 million, Paterson said.
Although the state has to cover this expense at a time of financial difficulties, the health and safety of New Yorkers is a priority, Paterson explained.