End of mandatory overtime a welcome relief to nurses
NYSUT Communications - June 2008
Nurse leaders reacted with jubilation to the news of legislative leaders' agreement to end the practice of forcing nurses to work mandatory overtime.
"We are delighted to learn that mandatory overtime will no longer be an acceptable tool for managers to use to staff our hospitals," said Anne Goldman, head of NYSUT's Health Care Professionals Council. "The abuses of staff have occurred for far too long and now it is time to have health care managers do the job of staffing."
Goldman, special nursing representative to the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, helped lead a June rally at the Capitol along with five other nursing or health care unions in support of the bill.
NYSUT applauded the agreement among Gov. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
"Ending mandatory overtime begins a new era of quality care in New York," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said. "Patients will continue to be served by great staff. Our nurses will have the dignity and professional respect they deserve. We salute our state leaders for addressing this critical health care issue for nurses and their families, and those who depend on their care."
Under the bill, no health care employer shall require a nurse to work more than that nurse's regularly scheduled work hours. Besides assisting quality care efforts, this change is expected to boost efforts to recruit new nurses to the profession.
"As a result of this legislation, New Yorkers in need of medical care will now be safer," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin. "Upon enactment, this bill will improve patient care and work to save lives, as well as restore some dignity to the profession of nursing. Some nurses will now be able to enjot badly needed rest as they no longer have to work two to three consecutive shifts. They will also be afforded quality family time to enjoy special events like birthday parties and graduations."
In the midst of an early June heat wave, nurses and other health care professionals from the North Country all the way to New York City met in Albany to urge lawmakers to stop mandatory overtime. The health care unionists from NYSUT, CWA, PEF, SEIU 1199 and the New York State Nurses Association cited patient and worker safety and keeping nurses in the profession as benefits of passing such legislation.
Many complained about being told at the end of their shift that they had to stay on - regardless of their family situation or their level of fatigue.
"We're not treated as professionals," said Holly Sauvie, a nurse and member of the Public Employees Federation who came from Tupper Lake with a carload of her peers for the rally. "Our license is on the line every day."
The bill is long overdue for Goldman and the NYSUT members who work in health care settings that will be covered by the legislation.
"As always we stand ready to respond to any real staffing emergency due to an unforeseen event - but employers will now have to use the appropriate judgment and interact on behalf of the need to safely staff our hospitals," Goldman said.