Hospitals could be banned from requiring nurse overtime. What would that mean for patients?

The Ohio House passed a bill on Thursday that would ban hospitals from requiring nurses to work overtime in most cases.

The Ohio Nurses Association said the bill won’t just help nurses, but that it could also make hospitals safer for patients.

ONA CEO Lori Chovanak said long shifts can lead to exhaustion and unintended medical errors.

“It’s directly related to fatigue,” Chovanak said.

Chovanak said the bill would allow nurses who are tired to have a say in the amount of time they work. The bill still allows for mandatory overtime in emergencies or ongoing medical procedures.

While the ONA hails the bill, some say the legislation doesn’t accomplish anything. Yvonne Curington, a retired local nurse and a member of National Nurses United, called the bill “irrelevant.”

Curington said mandatory overtime wasn’t really prevalent in Ohio and that advocates should look at ways to reduce workloads rather than reduce the amount of time worked.

One proposed method of decreasing extreme workloads on nurses are nurse-patient ratios, which specify the amount of patients for which a nurse can care at any given time.

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, a single-hospital study found that carefully accounted-for nurse staffing levels decreased the chance of patient mortality.

Hundreds of nurses have reached out to the ONA about mandatory overtime, Chovanak said. She acknowledged that prohibiting mandatory overtime won’t fix all the staffing issues nurses face, but it could improve conditions for both nurses and patients.

Some, however, say hospitals need to be able to freely schedule their workers to give patients the best possible care.

“Efforts to restrict hospitals’ ability to react to a constantly changing patient care environment is not safe for patients,” Ohio Hospital Association spokesperson John Palmer said. “It is easy for staffing mandates to sound like ‘solutions’ but the realities and complexities of safely staffing a hospital with appropriate nursing providers require flexibility.”

The bill will now move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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