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March 26,  2002

Governor Ventura Signs Ban on Mandatory Overtime; Minnesota Nurses Association Applauds Tri-Partisan Effort


(SafetyAlerts) - Governor Jesse Ventura signed into law today landmark legislation to limit the use of mandatory overtime when a Registered Nurse considers herself/himself too tired to perform safe patient care.

The Mandatory Overtime Prevention Act (SF 2463/HF 2993) makes it illegal for health care employers in acute care settings to take action against a nurse for refusing to work overtime. The bill makes it clear that the nurse exercises her/his own judgment as to whether she/he can safely provide care to patients.

"This bill places authority to make judgments about our own professional practice in the rightful hands of nurses," said MNA Board Member Patty Koenig, RN. "As nurses we are bound by our licensure standards and our ethical code to always act in the best interest of our patients. Our patients need to be able to depend on our best judgment. Yet many nurses throughout Minnesota find themselves working when they know they are not safe. They know in their hearts that they should not be handling syringes, giving medications or providing medical treatment."

Nurses in Minnesota and across the nation have been rising up in protest against the practice of forcing nurses to work overtime in order to compensate for short staffing. As the nursing shortage deepens, nurses have been reporting increased incidences of retaliation against nurses who refuse to work additional overtime hours. Retaliation includes discipline, threats of discharge, actual discharge of duty and reporting nurses to their licensing board for patient abandonment.

The use of mandatory overtime is addressed in many bargaining unit contracts where the Minnesota Nurses Association represents nurses. Minnesota was the first state in the nation to include such language in union contracts for nurses, having implemented it in 1987. This state law covers nurses who do not enjoy union representation and in other facilities where contract language does not address the issue. Long term care facilities are exempt from this particular measure, because current administrative statute includes language about mandatory overtime.

The effect of forced overtime on patient care is documented in the literature. Research shows that sleep loss influences several aspects of performance, leading to slowed reaction time, delayed responses, failure to respond when appropriate, false responses, slowed thinking, diminished memory and others. In fact, 1997 research by Dawson and Reid at the University of Australia showed that work performance is more likely to be impaired by moderate fatigue than by alcohol consumption. Their research shows that significant safety risks are posed by workers staying awake for long periods.

"Federal regulations have used transportation law to place limits on the amount of time that can be worked in aviation and trucking. Nursing has as much of an impact on public health and safety as these professions," said Koenig.

The Mandatory Prevention Act passed the Minnesota Senate 63-0 and by 130-1 in the House and Governor Ventura signed the bill without hesitation. Senate authors included Senators Ellen Anderson (D, St. Paul); Julie Sabo (D, Mpls.); Roger Moe (D, Erskine); Doug Johnson (D, Tower). Authors in the House for House File 2993 include Representatives Larry Howes (R, Walker); Dan McElroy (R, Burnsville); Bob Gunther (R, Fairmont); Loren Jennings (D, Harris) and Mary Ellen Otremba (D, Long Prairie).

With more than 15,500 members, MNA is the leading organization for Registered Nurses in the Midwest and is among the oldest and largest representatives of RNs for collective bargaining in the nation. Established in 1905, MNA is a multi-purpose organization that fosters high standards for nursing education and practice, and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. MNA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and is a constituent member of the American Nurses Association and its labor arm, the United American Nurses.

Source: PRNewswire

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