Nurses and other patient caregivers celebrate a victory, praise lawmakers, and look forward to safer work environment.
(HARRISBURG, PA) – It’s been seven years in the making, but on Wednesday, legislation against mandatory overtime for health caregivers passed its last hurdle on its way to the Governor’s desk.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a concurrence vote on House Bill 834, accepting amendments made in the Senate. Governor Rendell has pledged to sign the bill.
“This is one big positive step forward for patients and nurses across Pennsylvania,” said Kathy Magaro, RN, Coordinator of the SEIU Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania. “We had champions in both the House and the Senate, but the real heroes are the nurses and other direct patient caregivers who met with legislators again and again to tell them the reality of mandatory overtime and why this ban is so important to them and their patients.”
Twelve other states have also passed laws banning mandatory overtime, including neighboring New Jersey, New York and West Virginia.
Extensive research has demonstrated the link between overtime in health care and medical errors, including a 2004 study by University of Pennsylvania Researcher Ann Rogers finding that the risk of errors increased when nurses worked overtime or worked more than 40 hours per week. In fact, the risk of error was 3 times higher when a nurse worked 12.5 hour shift or longer.
A more recent study published in January of 2008 in the journal, Sleep, links long work hours to incidents of drowsy driving by nurses leaving their scheduled work shift. Two-thirds of nurses reported at least one episode of drowsy driving during the 4-week research study period.
“I’m so proud of the work our members did all across the state to support this bill. Many nurses in our union already have protection against mandatory overtime in their union contracts, but they reached out again and again to stand up for all patients and nurses who don’t have the benefits of a union,” said Neal Bisno, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Because of them, now all nurses and patients in Pennsylvania are protected.”
The passage of this bill will make it the first piece of legislation passed in years that protects nurses and patients and marks a huge step forward for nurses and their union.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and other health care workers, representing over 20,000 members in hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and state health facilities. For more information go to: www.seiuhealthcarepa.org.
The Nurse Alliance of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, uniting over 10,000 nurses across Pennsylvania in our commitment to provide the safest and highest quality of care for our patients and the public we serve. For more information visit: www.NurseAlliancePA.org