Ohio Nurses Association Applauds Introduction of
House Bill 144 – Prohibit Overtime Work for Nurses as a Condition of Employment
Bill addresses safe patient care, would make Ohio 19th state to outlaw
mandatory overtime for nurses
COLUMBUS – House Bill 144, sponsored by Representative Don Manning (R-New Middletown) and introduced on March 19, 2019, aims to make Ohio the 19th state to outlaw nurse mandatory overtime – a potentially dangerous practice occurring across Ohio that can jeopardize safe patient care.
Mandatory overtime is a staffing practice regularly used by healthcare facilities across Ohio and can lead to nurse fatigue and burnout. According to the CDC, medical errors are the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Research points to a correlation between fatigued nurses, extended shifts and an increased likelihood of medical errors.
In 2011, the Joint Commission issued an alert that called for hospitals to intensify their efforts to monitor and address health care workers’ risk for fatigue caused by extended shifts.
Even after the Joint Commission alert and prominent research that links fatigue and errors, it is still common place in Ohio to mandate RNs to work beyond their regularly scheduled hours.
Research also demonstrates that fatigue causes a decline in memory, reduced ability to learn, and impaired mood and communication skills. Further, scientific evidence links long working hours to many health effects, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
House Bill 144 aims to protect patient safety by allowing nurses the right to refuse overtime if they feel too fatigued to continue to provide safe patient care without fear of termination or licensure sanctions.
“Nurses are professionals who are ethically-bound to assess their ability to care for their patients. If a nurse is too fatigued to provide the safe care his/her patient deserves, the nurse should have the right to refuse overtime without fear of discipline or even being fired,” states Brian Burger, President of the Ohio Nurses Association. “Prioritizing safe nurse staffing benefits everyone: nurses, patients and healthcare facilities. Research points to dissatisfied patients, increased errors and higher patient readmissions when nurses are not safely staffed. Furthermore, nurse burnout increases with regular extended shifts, leading to costly nurse-turnover for healthcare facilities,” continued Burger. “The needs and safety of the patient and nurse need to be put first instead of trying to cut initial costs by using mandatory overtime to plug nurse staffing holes.”
Federal laws prohibit the amount of hours worked by pilots, train engineers and truck drivers because of the dangerous consequences of fatigue. Because there is a not a federal law protecting patients and nurses to this degree, 18 other states have passed laws prohibiting nurse mandatory overtime. Those states include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
“House Bill 144 stands up for Ohio’s nurses, which play a crucial and influential role in the treatment of patients,” said Representative Manning. “This bill makes patient safety the highest priority, and no one should have their nursing license or employment threatened for declining unscheduled overtime after a scheduled shift.”
House Bill 144 is a continuation of previous efforts in the general assembly, with the last nurse mandatory overtime bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2018.
The Ohio Nurses Association helped pass the current RN Staffing Law in 2008 – the foundation to begin addressing Ohio’s nurse staffing concerns. The staffing law requires hospital have nursing care committees who are tasked with creating, evaluating and adjusting the facility’s nurse staffing plan.
ONA also helped pass a budget amendment in 2017 that requires hospitals submit their nurse staffing plans to the Ohio Department of Health to increase hospital transparency.
“House Bill 144 is another much needed step in Ohio nurses’ quest for safe nurse staffing and quality patient care,” Burger stated.
About ONA: Formed in 1904, the Ohio Nurses Association is a powerful network of registered nurses who are committed to advancing nursing through education, political action and workplace advocacy. ONA is the leading voice of the approximately 190,000 professional registered nurses in Ohio. To become a member of the Ohio Nurses Association, visit www.ohnurses.org.