PRINCETON, N.J.―A newly published study finds that state-mandated caps on nurses’ mandatory overtime hours are effective and reduce overtime hours for newly registered nurses. Past research has demonstrated that fatigue caused by long hours without sufficient rest between shifts can lead to mistakes that endanger patients and nurses.
This new study is part of the RN Work Project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a ten-year longitudinal study of newly licensed registered nurses (NLRNs) that began in 2006. The RN Work Project is designed to learn more about nurses’ career patterns, including turnover. The overtime study draws on data from nurses in 34 states, covering 51 metropolitan areas and nine rural areas. It is published in the online edition of Nursing Outlook.
Lead investigators for the study were Sung-Heui Bae, PhD, MPH, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo; Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the School of Nursing, University at Buffalo; and Christine Kovner, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor at the College of Nursing, New York University. Kovner and Brewer direct the RN Work Project.
“The purpose of capping mandatory overtime is to make hospitals safer for patients and nurses," said Brewer. “Nurses routinely work long shifts, often as long as 12 hours straight. These laws were intended to prevent hospitals from piling mandatory overtime on top of such shifts, a practice that research shows can increase the likelihood of mistakes. The laws seem to be accomplishing their objective."