Nurses group says mandatory overtime dangerous to patients

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio’s largest nursing association says there’s a direct correlation between nurses getting tired from working overtime and medical errors, including death.The Ohio Nursing Association is trying to make mandatory overtime for hospital nurses illegal. 

There are currently 18 states where it’s illegal for nurses to work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period.

Ohio’s not one of them.

WKBN sat down with Carol Smith, a nurse with 36 years of experience at Cleveland and Youngstown hospitals. She said exhaustion from overtime led to medical errors.

“Calculating dosages of very significant medications that keep us alive, it would increase the potential for error. There’s just no way around that,” she said.

According to a study from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 43 percent of the errors came from registered nurses.

Smith said nursing can be a taxing job — both physically and mentally.

“When you go in and you go through your shift, whether an eight-hour shift — which I always preferred — or a 12-hour shift, you need to be able to go home,” she said.

The Ohio Nursing Association said it surveyed 170,000 of its members. Of those people, 35 percent — or 21,000 people — said they were afraid of speaking up about overtime for fear of losing their licenses or getting harassed at work.

“That was just known, that when you refuse overtime, you can be fired,” Smith said.

The Ohio Hospitals Association said staffing constantly changes based on the number of patients and mandating staffing ratios would restrict a hospital’s ability to adjust to the needs of its patients. The association said with mandatory overtime, it’s also assumed that all nurses share the same skill level.

Don Koenig, chief operating officer for Mercy Health, said getting rid of overtime could cause some issues that need to be addressed.

“I can understand the need to do it, but it’s a difficult balancing act for hospital administrators to hit that right balance every day and every shift,” he said.

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