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Nurses Applaud Senate Health Committee for Standing Up for Wisconsin's Patients

For Immediate Release:                    Contact: Stephanie Bloomingdale
September 17, 2009                                           414-475-6065, ext. 20 or 414-899-7498

Nurses Applaud Senate Health Committee for 
Standing Up for Wisconsin's Patients

     Today the Wisconsin State Senate Health Committee took a giant step forward to protect Wisconsin patients. The committee, chaired by Senator Jon Erpenbach, voted to approve SB 108, the bill to ban mandatory overtime for nurses and healthcare workers.

     Currently, hospitals can force nurses to work unlimited hours, often with little notice. Fatigued nurses are more likely to make errors in patient care. SB 108 would limit the ability of hospitals to mandate nurses to work overtime while still allowing the hospital to mandate overtime in cases of unforeseen emergencies such as bus crashes, debilitating snow storms, epidemics or or other disasters.

     "This bill is about protecting our patients," said Candice Owley, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "Mandating nurses to work overtime, sometimes up to 16 hours in a row, is a dangerous practice and should be ended at once. We urge the Senate and Assembly to take quick action on this critical legislation."

     Fifteen other states have already put limits on mandatory overtime for nurses.

     Barb Janusiak, a registered nurse, is in favor of the bill and says, "No nurse should be forced to work beyond the end of their shift when they are blurry-eyed with fatigue. It's just not safe. It's that simple--exhausted nurses are more likely to make errors and that's bad for patients."

     A 2008 survey by the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals of Wisconsin nurses found that mandatory overtime is widespread and is a major contributor to errors in patient care:

  • 42% of the nurses said they have been forced to work mandatory overtime at least once a month with 12% mandated at least once a week.
  • 82% of the nurses believe that mandatory overtime is an important contributor to nurse turnover, with 54% saying it is a very important contributor
  • 73% of the nurses believe a ban on mandatory overtime would significantly improve the ability to recruit new nurses into the profession.
  • When asked to what extent quality of care suffered when nurses are required to work forced overtime, 96% said quality suffers, with 56% saying it suffers a great deal.
  • Evidence of care suffering was born out with 43% of the nurses reporting they were aware of errors in care that have occurred as a result of nurse fatigue. Over 500 nurses listed examples of errors. The overwhelming number of examples centered on medication errors. The errors reported by the nurses included giving the wrong medication, the wrong dosages, administering drugs at the wrong time and to the wrong patient. The other concerns cited were examples of nurses falling asleep at work or while driving home.
      (The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, "RN Opinion Survey," May, 2008)

     Janusiak believes the passage of SB 108 will make a tremendous positive impact on nurses and their patients. "I was so pleased to hear the committee passed the bill today, and so were the nurses on my unit. We all really hope the bill will get passed quickly."




The Wisconsin FNHP is a division of AFT Healthcare, which represents more than 65,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals.


A Union of Professionals