The Nurses Overtime & Patient Safety Act

Although the title makes it seem otherwise, the Nurses Overtime & Patient Safety Act (“the Act”) has nothing to do with overtime wages and everything to do with the safety and quality care of patients as well as the health and general well-being of hospital health care workers. The requirements of the Act restrict covered hospitals from requiring nurses involved in direct patient care to work more than sixteen hours within a twenty-four hour period and to provide at least eight full hours of time off after a nurse completes a shift of twelve or more hours. The provisions of the Act do not apply when a nurse volunteers to work the additional hours, when such decision is not a result of coercion from the hospital, or during an unforeseen emergency situation. Hospitals are also prohibited from taking action against any nurse that refuses to work more hours than are permitted. Those hospitals in which the nurses are covered by a collective bargaining agreement addressing these same issues as well as those hospitals operated by a state or federal agency are not covered. The Act also specifically exempts nurse anesthetists, even when such work is performed in a covered hospital. Nurses providing direct patient care in a patient’s residence, in an assisted living residence or a nursing home are also not covered.
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