Massachusetts hospitals turn to mandatory overtime

Nurses say some Massachusetts hospitals have turned to mandatory overtime to help ease workforce shortages, according to The Boston Globe.

Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. have experienced labor challenges, including shortages. A new report from Fitch Ratings indicates signs of easing labor cost pressures for hospitals. However, healthcare organizations continue to grapple with filling jobs and retaining top talent. 

In Massachusetts, several hospitals have required nurses to work beyond their scheduled shift, according to The Boston Globe, which cites reports filed with the state health department. The state prohibits mandatory overtime for nurses except in an emergency situation "where the safety of the patient requires its use and when there is no reasonable alternative."

Some argue nurse overtime could add strain to the state's healthcare workforce and drive resignations, according to The Boston Globe. Katie Murphy, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said in the report that the state is no longer dealing with a state of emergency, pointing to the fact hospitals must now maintain nurse-patient ratios in ICUs as proof.

Hospitals, meanwhile, said the state of emergency is ongoing and told the newspaper they have worked to address staffing challenges through investing in temporary traveler staff, adopting new technology and working with unions on contract language for workers, but no quick solutions exist. 

"Mandatory overtime is not a routine practice and is viewed as a final measure taken to preserve safe patient care when other options have been exhausted," Michael Sroczynski, senior vice president and general counsel for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said, according to The Boston Globe. "Hospitals are closely following the law set more than a decade ago, including reporting all instances of its use to the Department of Public Health."

Data compiled by The Boston Globe showed about a dozen hospitals reported more than 350 mandatory overtime instances between June 2022 and February 2023. That marked a decrease from the same period a year earlier (more than 600 instances reported from about two dozen hospitals).

Read the full report here

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