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Stop Requiring Nurses to Work Overtime

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   January 31, 2012

Brewer is the co-author of a study published in the journal Nursing Outlook that finds that state-mandated caps on nurses' mandatory overtime hours have been successful at reducing overtime hours for newly licensed registered nurses (NLRNs) in those states.

Overall, 11.6% of nurses said they worked mandatory overtime in a typical work week, averaging 6.1 hours of mandatory overtime. But in states that govern mandatory overtime, the study found that NLRNs were 59% less likely to work mandatory overtime than their colleagues in unregulated states.

"Mandatory overtime should always be the last option," Brewer says. Instead, nurse managers need to make sure they have resources available when they need extra staffing. For example, is there an adequate float pool? Is there an adequate use of agency employees?

Nurse managers might look into other options as well; Brewer says some hospitals are using a system that auctions off open hours to nurses who are willing to pick up extra shifts.

In fact, Brewer and her co-authors write that "nurse managers could use voluntary overtime as an alternative to mandatory overtime when regulations prohibit mandatory overtime."

"It's not that nurses don't want to do overtime, because they quite evidently do. But they want control over the overtime," says Brewer. "Having control over your work hours is a satisfier; it's something that nurses need to have to be satisfied in their job."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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