A bill that would ban the use of mandatory overtime for most nurses in Wisconsin has cleared a state Senate committee. The state’s hospital association oppose the measure. Wisconsin Hospital Association vice president Judy Warmuth, herself an RN, says a survey of member hospitals indicates mandatory OT is not a problem.
It’s an extremely rare accordance,” says Warmuth. “It’s actually our perception that it isn’t going on right now, so it doesn’t need to be fixed, but that there is a risk that when the time comes that we do need it, it will have been taken away legislatively.”
“That’s not conclusion that the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses or the Wisconsin Nurses Association has made,” says the bill’s author. State Senator Judy Robson, a Beloit Democrat who’s also an RN, says the nursing groups have surveyed their members, too. “They have found that 43 percent of the nurses are asked to do overtime.”
“The perception that this is used regularly and routinely and that it’s the way we staff . . . that we don’t think about employees first, that we don’t use other options, my members tell me that just isn’t true.” says the WHA’s Warmuth. “Sometimes they’re ‘guilt tripped’ into it, because nurses are very generous, and they care about their patients,” says Robson, adding that in some cases nurses are mandated to work up to sixteen hours straight.
The WHA says the bill (AB 152), should it become law, will jeopardize patient safety, but Robson says long overtime hours can also put patients at risk, by increasing the chance of a medical error.