Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has proposed legislation that would
prohibit hospitals from requiring nurses to work past their scheduled work shifts unless the federal,
state, or local government declares an official state of emergency, the Boston Globe reports.
While nurses would be able to work overtime voluntarily, hospitals that force
nurses to work overtime would face $10,000 in civil penalties, the newspaper
reports. Under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
would investigate complaints.
The newspaper notes that the legislation is quite likely to see strong opposition
in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Kennedy says that he believes the legislation would improve care and encourage more young people
to choose nursing as a career.
Hospital groups oppose the legislation, saying there are other ways to attract
people to nursing without imposing restrictions on mandatory overtime.
"We have had a long and fruitful relationship with Senator Kennedy and
we would like to work with him on the nursing shortage issue," says Paul
Wingle, senior director of communications at the Massachusetts Hospital Association.
"But these restrictions would impair the ability of caregivers to meet
the demands of patients on the spot."