Mandatory overtime: just say no

17 Aug

Mat Keller headshot

By Mathew Keller RN JD, Regulatory and Policy Nursing Specialist


“If you don’t stay and work extra, who will take the admission that’s coming?  There’s no one else.”

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been told by your nurse manager that you must work “mandatory” overtime, don’t buy it!  Under Minnesota state law, nurses cannot be disciplined for refusing overtime if, in the nurse’s judgment, it would be unsafe for the patient.

Study after study show that unplanned overtime assignments have a high potential to be unsafe. Working more than 10 hours in a given day, when unplanned, results in lower quality of care, higher RN burnout, decreased patient satisfaction, and increased errors.

Whether the overtime is planned or unplanned does make a difference: we plan to get extra sleep, bring an extra meal, and mentally prepare when we know overtime is coming; when it’s not, we’re caught between pleasing our supervisor and doing what’s best for the patient.

What happens if your nurse manager tells you that if you do not accept an overtime assignment, you are abandoning your patients?  Again, don’t buy it!

Generally speaking, patient abandonment occurs when a nurse leaves a patient without handing off that patient’s care to another nurse.  If you refuse mandatory overtime for the purposes of protecting your patients, you will need to hand off the care of your patients to another RN, which can include your nurse manager (i.e. give report).  Remember that under the language of the overtime law, healthcare facilities are forbidden from reporting nurses who refuse mandatory overtime to the Board of Nursing.

When employers ask for or “mandate” overtime, it means the hospital is desperately short of staff.  Accepting overtime assignments enables and perpetuates this unsafe staffing by allowing hospital administration to get away with not hiring enough nurses.  So, the next time you’re asked to take on mandatory overtime, just say no.


3 Responses to “Mandatory overtime: just say no”

  1. Rita Sandwick August 17, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I wish I had known that when I was still working. So glad this information is available to those who still are working, that will make a safer place for both staff and patients!

  2. Kristie Belden August 26, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Is this just for a Rn or is this Nursing Assistant also

  3. Diane Scott September 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Is this the answer to staffing: supervisor asks new grad on orientation if they can take 5 patients and not be on orientation. Whoops- forgot to tell you that the new grad just started orientation!

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