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Michigan House panel considers overtime limits for nurses - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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Michigan House panel considers overtime limits for nurses by katty : November 30, 2017, 08:10:46 PM
Two weeks after auditors warned that nurses in at least one state-run hospital work too much overtime, a legislative panel on Wednesday considered a trio of bills that would limit the long hours that advocates say put patients at risk.

Collectively, the three bills — House Bills 4629, 4630 and 4631 — would require hospitals to limit nurse-to-patient ratios, prohibit mandatory overtime in most instances, and make hospitals' staffing ratios public. Nurse advocacy groups have long warned that long hours and too great a workload make nurses fatigued and more prone to mishaps that can hurt patients, the nurses themselves, or other staffers.

The bill setting nurse-patient ratios has 40 cosponsors, including two Republicans, state Reps. Larry Inman of Traverse City and Tommy Brann of Wyoming. Still, members of the state House Health Policy Committee on Wednesday were given dueling research and anecdotes claiming to prove or disprove that the legislation would make a difference. Some lawmakers questioned whether the state should start making human resources decisions for businesses.

Katie Scott, an Ann Arbor nurse and board member at the Michigan Nurses Association, told the story of trying to revive an intensive care patient who'd fallen while her nurse was called away to attend to other patients. The patient died and Scott said she'd seen the woman's 6-year-old grandson in the hallway.

"I'm asking you to take the power you have and make sure there isn't another 6-year-old boy who loses his grandmother because a nurse is asked to do the impossible," Scott said.

However, Joyce Young, a nursing executive and board member for the Michigan Organization of Nurse Leaders, said mandating staff ratios would only further challenge hospitals that already struggle to fill positions because of a shortage of qualified candidates. 

"I think we might all be missing the 'why' here," Young told the committee. "The fact of the matter is, simply legislating a ratio does not take into account the many variables that go into staffing decisions."

Wednesday's hearing came after the Michigan Auditor General earlier this month warned that nurses at the state-run Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital work too much overtime. Auditors identified dozens of nurses who worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime between October 2014 and September 2016, including one employee who worked an average of more than 45 hours of overtime per week.

A 2015 State Journal investigation found nurses at all five of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services' psychiatric hospitals often worked several overtime shifts, including double shifts, per week.

Though more of that overtime was voluntary than mandatory, nurses told the State Journal they are often pressured to volunteer. 

The committee did not vote Wednesday. However, bills similar to those debated Wednesday were introduced in the House and Senate last legislative session and the 2013-14 session, but never even received a hearing. 
So Wednesday's hearing was notable progress for advocates of the change.

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