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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a new healthcare cost containment law that includes a ban on mandatory overtime for nurses. The measure aims to protect patients and save money by preventing mistakes, errors and complications resulting from RNs being forced to work excessive hours.
Under the law, a hospital could not require a nurse to work beyond their scheduled shift, and no nurse would be required to work more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period, except in the case of a declared emergency. Hospitals will be required to report assigned mandatory overtime shifts, as well as justification for its use, to the Department of Public Health. Nurses will be able to refuse overtime without fear of retribution or discipline.
"This is a landmark achievement in our state's efforts to control costs, while maintaining safe, quality patient care," said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United. "Forcing nurses to work when they are exhausted endangers patients and leads to costly, preventable medical errors and complications. The practice of mandatory overtime is indefensible by any patient safety standard, and yet hospitals continue to increase their use of this practice. This legislation will put an end to that."
The Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the state with 23,000 members, and is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses union in the United States.