Nurses, Community Celebrate Mandatory Overtime Decision, Safer Patient Care
Community Health System’s Northside Medical Center told to cease and desist use of the practice
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After months of inadequate nurse staffing and concerns over patient safety, the nurses of CHS-Northside, represented by the Ohio Nurses Association, and the community are celebrating an end to the overuse of mandatory overtime at Community Health System’s Northside Medical Center. Due to a recent arbitrator’s decision, beginning January 1, 2016, CHS-Northside must cease and desist the use of nurse mandatory overtime over 33 hours per calendar year. This decision means CHS-Northside must finally address their nurse staffing issue by hiring the appropriate number of nurses in order for Youngstown’s residents to receive the care they deserve.
CHS-Northside’s use of mandatory overtime meant nurses were made to stay long past their original shift, creating a potentially unsafe working and patient care environment. Mandatory overtime contributes heavily to nurse fatigue and practice errors that in turn jeopardize patient care. The decision puts a 33 hour cap on CHS-Northside’s use of the practice. CHS nurses were required to work nearly 1,500 hours of mandatory overtime during the first six months of 2015 alone.
“This is a monumental win not only for the nurses of CHS-Northside but for the community CHS-Northside serves. No longer will nurses be burdened with exhaustion and the accompanying worry of making a mistake,” stated Eric Williams, President of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, a local union of the Ohio Nurses Association who represents the nurses at CHS-Northside. “And soon, members of the community will no longer have to worry if they will receive the proper care and attention they deserve because of CHS-Northside running a skeleton crew of nurses who are worked around the clock.”
Many studies have looked at the relation between nurses’ hours worked and the effect on patient care. Studies have found that critical care nurses working in excess of 12.5 hours are at nearly double to risk of making an error. Additionally, a study of staff nurses found the likelihood of making an error, such as a medication error, was three times higher when working 12.5 hours or more. Nurses at CHS-Northside were often forced to extend their normal12-hour shift to sixteen hours.
Mandatory overtime is a problem many nurses face across the country. Sixteen states have enacted laws to regulate or restrict mandatory overtime, including Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, California and Missouri. Ohio has a general Nurse Safe Staffing Law. While the law does not specifically ban or restrict mandatory overtime, it does call upon facilities to work with nurses to develop comprehensive nurse staffing plans that are focused on evidence-based research.
“The Ohio Nurses Association is pursuing avenues to ensure nurses are safely staffed across Ohio. There are federal regulations that place limits on hours worked for other industries in which the work directly affects public safety including airlines and commercial drivers, however nurses are not covered under such regulations. Until we have those laws, either in Ohio or nationwide, we have to rely on collective bargaining agreements, like with CHS-Northside, to ensure our nurses are not being overworked and that Ohioans are receiving the care they deserve,” stated Bob Cousins, Deputy Executive Officer of Labor Relations at the Ohio Nurses Association.
Fifty-two nurses were involved in the set of mass grievances filed against CHS-Northside because of the Hospital’s use of mandatory overtime – a practice that is prohibited in the contract between YGDNA and CHS-Northside. The provision was established fourteen years ago after YGDNA went on strike for 81 days over the facility’s exploitation of the practice. The arbitration hearings were held June 2 through June 3, 2015.
CONTACT: Molly Ackley, Director of Communications