SENATORS KENNEDY AND KERRY WORK TO PROTECT NURSES AGAINST MANDATORY OVERTIME PATIENT SAFETY DEPENDS ON IMPROVED CONDITIONS FOR NURSES
WASHINGTON D.C.—Today, Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry introduced legislation aimedat protecting nurses from forced overtime at the demand of their employers. The bill setsstrict limits on health care facilities that are requiring nurses to work mandatory overtime,which can put the patients they care for at increased risk. A recent study by the University ofPennsylvania School of Nursing found that nurses who work shifts of twelve and a half hoursor more are three times more likely to commit errors than nurses who work a standard shift ofeight and a half hours or less.
The bill will grant the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to investigatecomplaints from nurses as well as the power to impose a monetary fine for those employerswho violate this act.
“Improving conditions for nurses is an essential part of our ongoing effort to reduce medicalerrors and improve patient outcomes. But it’s also a matter of basic fairness and respect,”Senator Kennedy said. “Nurses perform one of the most difficult and important jobs in oursociety. They care about their patients and want to provide the best possible treatment. Theycannot do their job when they’re exhausted and overworked. Nurses – and the patients theycare for – deserve better.”
“It’s wrong to overwork our nurses and put such an enormous strain on these hardworkingprofessionals, their co-workers and families,” Senator Kerry said. “We’re all human. Just likeanyone, the longer and longer a nurse works without rest, the greater the likelihood of makingan error. We owe our nurses better than that and this bill responsibly limits mandatoryovertime for nurses. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Kennedy in introducing thiscommon sense measure.”
“Banning mandatory overtime is about keeping nurses and patients safe,” said Cathy Glasson,a registered nurse with 20 years of experience and President of the Nurse Alliance of SEIUHealthcare. Working 16-hour shifts, caring for 8 to 10 patients at a time, these are theconditions that endanger patients and drive nurses to leave the profession. Some states havealready ended forced overtime, it’s time for Congress to stop the practice in every hospital.”
We face a critical shortage of nurses and the grueling conditions in which nurses are obliged towork jeopardizes the future of this essential profession. The American Hospital Associationreports that hospitals needed 118,000 more RNs to fill immediate vacancies in December2005. This is an 8.5% vacancy rate, and it is expected to rise to 20% in coming years,undermining their ability to provide emergency care. In addition, nearly half a million trainednurses are not currently working in the nursing profession, even though they are desperatelyneeded.
Below is a summary of the legislation:
Laura Burton Capps/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633