Ohio hospitals are facing a ban on nurse overtime — here's how it could affect patients

The Ohio House passed a bill June 7 that would prohibit hospitals from requiring nurses to work overtime — a move the Ohio Nurses Association says could make hospitals safer, the Dayton Daily News reports.

Long shifts for nurses can lead to fatigue and medical errors, said ONA CEO Lori Chovanak, RN. "It's directly related to fatigue," Ms. Chovanak told the Dayton Daily News.

The bill would let fatigued nurses have a say in the how long they work, Ms. Chovanak said. Under the bill, hospitals would be allowed to issue mandatory overtime in emergencies or during ongoing medical procedures.

One retired Ohio nurse and member of National Nurses United, a union and professional association of registered nurses, told the Dayton Daily News that advocates should strategize ways to reduce workload as opposed to changing how long nurses work. 

Hundreds of nurses have talked to the ONA about mandatory overtime, Ms. Chovanak added. Although prohibiting hospitals from mandating overtime will not remedy all nurse-related staffing issues, Ms. Chovanak said the bill could improve conditions for nurses and patients.

But Ohio Hospital Association spokesperson John Palmer said the bill could prevent hospitals from adjusting to frequently changing care environments and lower the quality of care.

"Efforts to restrict hospitals' ability to react to a constantly changing patient care environment is not safe for patients," Mr. 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 move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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