Mandatory Overtime and the Nursing Shortage

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Over the past decade, nursing shortage has been an epidemic. Facilities often find it difficult to obtain adequate staffing. In an attempt to correct this problem, many facilities have decided to utilize mandatory overtime. Overtime is defined as “the time one spends doing their job in addition to their regular scheduled hours” (, n.d.). Once in a while overtime may be beneficial, but logbooks indicate that it is been used too frequently in hospitals and other nursing facilities. In fact, a study has shown that of 5317 work shifts, 40% exceeded 12 hours (Rogers, Hwang, Scott, Aiken, & Dinges, 2004). In some instances, nurses are notified only an hour prior to knowing that they will be staying overtime. Nurses can be subjected to threats of disciplinary action or dismissal from their job if they refuse to stay the extra shift (Widowfield, 2004). This often leaves nurses feeling powerless over their work life as well as their personal life. Mandatory overtime has generated much hostility and resentment between nursing facilities and their employees. But if mandatory overtime is so problematic, why is this practice so commonly used?

Numerous factors contribute to the increased use of mandatory overtime. Several of those issues began in the 1990s when changes in the health care system were implemented. Due to conflicts in funding, hospital staffs were greatly reduced. When facilities required more nurses such as times when there was an unexpected increase in patient admission, instead of hiring additional staff, mandatory overtime was used (Keenan, 2003). At the height of their need, the amount of practicing nurses has declined. With baby boomers reaching retirement age they will need health care services which only increases the demand for nurses. These issues conflict as some nurses are baby boomers

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