Nurse Mandatory Overtime

In the context of employment law, overtime refers to work performed in excess of the number of hours agreed upon in an employment contract. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) it is considered overtime to work longer than 40 hours within seven consecutive days. Many states have also enacted overtime laws with respect to the number of hours an employee can work within a 24-hour span before receiving overtime pay. For example, some jurisdictions require employers to pay nurses one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for work performed beyond eight hours in one day. Nurses are not to work longer than 12 hours in a 24-hour span except in a healthcare emergency situation.

A mandatory overtime assignment is one in which an employer requires a nurse to work longer hours than agreed upon in his or her employment contract. In such a situation, the employer must pay the extra time and one-half pay for the hours the employer is requiring the nurse to work overtime. This approach has drawn significant criticism from many in the nursing and medical industry as mandatory overtime is linked with a number of physiological factors that could result in disastrous consequences in the context of the healthcare industry.

The American Nurses Association is particularly outspoken against mandatory overtime as it is well-documented that excessive overtime hours inevitably lead to fatigue, poor focus and possibly nursing mistakes. All nurses are duly licensed by their respective states and are charged with the responsibility to care for their patients to the best of their abilities. Many contend that mandatory overtime disables nurses from meeting this standard as nurses are tired and facing extreme exhaustion. Working while exhausted also raises significant ethical issues for nurses who took a vow to uphold the duties of the nursing profession.

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