A recent press release from the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) discussed a new law banning mandatory overtime for nurses and other direct caregivers. It became effective July 1, 2009 throughout the state.
The law (Act 102) prohibits healthcare facilities and hospitals from requiring that nurses and direct caregivers work beyond their scheduled shift, making an exception in the case of true emergencies. Nurses in Pennsylvania now have greater assurance that they will not have to work excess hours beyond those agreed to, predetermined, and regularly scheduled as part of daily work shifts. Nurses are still permitted to volunteer for overtime duty, but cannot be dismissed or retaliated against by their employer for failing to do so.
This law applies to registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), respiratory therapists, certain lab technicians, and other employees who work in direct patient care or clinical services. It does not extend to cover physicians or physician assistants. It applies broadly to all medical facilities, including acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehab facilities, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical facilities, and state health facilities.
As previously mentioned, there are some exceptions to the ban on mandatory overtime. In case of declared national, state, or municipal emergencies, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or widespread outbreaks of disease, facilities may require nurses to work overtime if they have no other solution to the problem. Before resorting to mandatory overtime, they must seek volunteers for overtime from all available and qualified staff, seek the use of per diem staff, and seek temporary personnel from contract agencies if and when this is permitted.
This law is designed to protect nurses from hospitals and healthcare facilities using mandatory overtime to solve chronic short staffing. It extends to prohibit mandatory on-call time. If a nurse has worked over 12 consecutive hours, they are entitled to at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time immediately following.