A Rhode Island bill passed by both the state House and Senate would ban hospitals there from requiring nurses and nurse assistants to work mandatory overtime except in cases of disaster and severe emergencies.
The legislation, which is currently waiting signature by Gov. Donald Carcieri, was developed to protect patients from medical mistakes that can occur when staff is overworked and to help reverse nursing shortages, according to sponsors of the bill.
Mandatory overtime makes an already taxing job that much tougher, and that makes nurses leave the profession early and discourages young people from becoming nurses, said Democratic state Sen. John Tassoni Jr., who introduced the bill.
Under the bills provisions, nurses and nurse assistants can voluntarily work overtime, but hospitals could not require them to work longer than their agreed-upon eight-, 10- or 12-hour shift, except in the case of true emergency. They cannot work longer than 12 consecutive hours under any circumstance. Hospitals that violate the law by threatening nurses and nurse assistants with dismissal or other forms of reprimand would be fined $300 for each incident. Collected fines would be used to help create and fund a Center for Health Professionsan institute for promoting careers in the healthcare professions. -- by Shawn Rhea