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Frequently Asked Questions About Mandatory Overtime

Frequently Asked Questions about


Wisconsin’s Bill to Ban Mandatory Overtime for 
Nurses and Healthcare Workers

Why do we need a ban on Mandatory Overtime for healthcare workers?

  • Mandatory overtime is bad for nurses and healthcare workers….but it is worse for patients.
  • It’s an issue of patient safety.  Would you want to be a patient cared for by a nurse who has just worked sixteen hours in a row?
  • An overworked caregiver cannot provide the same level of care as someone who arrives fresh and ready to tackle the day’s challenges.

Just because a nurse or a caregiver is tired, does it necessarily follow that he or she will make a medical mistake?

  • Not necessarily, healthcare workers do their best to give quality care to all of their patients – tired or not.  However, the likelihood of making a mistake increases when exhaustion sets in.
  • One study found that after 17-19 hours with out sleep subject’s performance was equal to or worse than at a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.  After 24 hours, 0.10%
  • The Institute of Medicine study found that as many as 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical mistakes.

Do other professions have a limit on the number of hours workers can work?

  • Yes, there are limits on the work hours of truckers, airline pilots, flight attendants and rail workers because it is assumed that alertness is critical to the safe performance of their jobs. 
  • Nurses make life and death decisions throughout their shift, hospitals should no longer be permitted to jeopardize patient safety by forcing exhausted nurses to care for patients.

What about the nursing shortage, if we ban mandatory overtime who will care for the patients?

  • Mandatory overtime is unsafe for patients.  We should not allow patient safety to be jeopardized. 
  • Mandatory overtime is forcing nurses out of the profession.  A recent survey conducted by the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals found that one in five nurses is planning to leave nursing in the next five years because they are fed up with working conditions like mandatory overtime.
  • By banning mandatory overtime, we will give Wisconsin nurses an incentive to stay in the profession.

If we ban mandatory overtime, who will care for the patients in an emergency like a blizzard or a plane crash?

  • The bill allows employees to be mandated to work in the case of an unforeseeable emergency like a natural disaster.
  • However, the emergency must be unforeseeable.  That means a hole in the schedule or a sick call is not considered an “emergency.”

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