Ohio lawmakers are backing new legislation that would ban mandatory overtime for nurses in hospitals statewide after an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation revealed serious health and safety risks.
In a May 2017 investigation, we found that Ohio nurses can be required to work mandatory overtime despite complaining of being either too sick or exhausted to safely care for patients.
Our report included interviews with nurses across the state who revealed the fear of termination or licensure sanctions if they refused to continue working despite completing repeated 12-hour shifts.
State Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) introduced HB #456 that would "prohibit a hospital from requiring a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse to work overtime as a condition of continued employment."
State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) is among three additional co-sponsors.
"I think what you're finding in your reports," said Sprague, "is what I've found, that this is a sensitive issues in nursing across the state.
"We're finding that this is a practice that is more common than a lot of people would have originally thought."
The Ohio Nurses Association has also found that mandatory overtime contributes to:
- Nurse fatigue negatively impacting hospital costs
- Job performance
- Increased medical errors
"We need to be providing safe care," said Ohio Nurses Association CEO Lori Chovanak. "We need to take steps to make sure we are doing that."
The Ohio Hospital Association says it will oppose the legislation, calling it "overly broad and does not appropriately address the problem it purports to solve," said OHA communications director John Palmer in a statement to News 5.
Staffing a hospital is a complex process that continually changes based on community health and patient needs. OHA is working with key policymakers and interested party group representatives regarding House Bill 456. Prohibiting overtime as presented in this proposed legislation restricts hospitals’ ability to adjust to the needs of their patients.
Furthermore, the legislation improperly assumes that all nurses share the same skill sets and are simply “interchangeable parts” in the treatment of patients. Hospitals must have the flexibility to respond to the dynamic state of patient needs and must focus on a variety of factors when determining staffing levels, while always keeping patient safety at the core of those decisions. Those factors include patient needs, volume, and acuity, patient satisfaction, resources available, nursing staff competency and skill mix, availability of medical and support staff and a variety of staffing standards set by accrediting bodies, professional societies and federal and state regulators.
If passed, Ohio would join 18 other states that already ban mandatory nurse overtime.
Our May 2017 report on Ohio's overworked nurses: