Stop Requiring Nurses to Work Overtime

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, January 31, 2012

When one of your nurses calls in sick, or if your organization is experiencing a staffing crunch, what do you do?

The answer is different for every organization, but here's one thing you probably shouldn't do: require mandatory overtime.

More states are restricting mandatory overtime in an effort to reduce nurse fatigue, which not only jeopardizes the health of patients, but of the nurses themselves. But according to Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo, hospitals shouldn't wait for state laws before they do away with mandatory overtime requirements in their organizations.

That's because safety isn't the only problem that can stem from mandatory overtime; Brewer says mandatory overtime is a "dissatisfier" that can be a factor in high turnover rates.

"There is just simply no question that mandatory overtime is repugnant to most nurses," Brewer tells HealthLeaders. "Most nurses have families, many of them have children…you tell a nurse who has to pick up her child from the daycare that she has to work another eight hours? That's just devastating to people's personal lives."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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