An Analysis of Policy Goals and Options
Timothy J. Clark
St. Joseph’s College of Maine
July 25, 2012
In spite of legislative measures to attempt to correct it, the issue of nurses working mandatory overtime continues. The primary problem with mandatory overtime is that, as reported by Garret (2008), it leads to increased potential for nursing errors or near misses due to fatigue, and to diminished quality of patient care even in the absence of critical errors. According to Trinkoff (2007), mandatory overtime has long term negative effects on the health of the nurse as well, who usually does not have the option simply to decline these extra hours. The nurse who is mandated for overtime often faces termination if she fails to comply, and according to the American Nurses Association (ANA Board of Directors, 2009), may face the additional threat of being reported to the state nursing board for abandoning their patients, which also carries with it the implied threat of suspension or loss of their state nursing license. In the past twenty five years the nation has faced a severe shortage of available nurses in the workforce, and “… (b)y 2005, roughly half a million U.S. registered nurses (about one fifth of the national total) had chosen not to work in nursing.” (The Truth About Nursing, 2007) However, with the recent recession of 2008, nursing as a profession is beginning to look more attractive to a younger generation, and according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2012), nursing school enrollment is at an eight year high as of 2011, and many schools now have waiting lists to get into a nursing program (Rampell, C., 2012). There are several political stakeholders in this issue who are directly involved in seeing nurses’ overtime hours brought down to a reasonable level. Nurse and patient advocate groups and nurses’ unions are obviously concerned in the issue of mandatory overtime and in...