By Diane Scott
It was a beautiful fall day. The oak trees were breathtaking. That was outside… Inside the hospital, chaos ensued. We were short staffed. Yep, plain-old short-staffing, once again.
The charge nurse asked the nurses working their eight-hour day shifts to stay and also work the evening shift. All five of these nurses said no. They were too tired, and, in their professional judgment, it would be unsafe for their patients. Then, the nurse manager approached one of those nurses and said, “you have to stay or I am going to report you for abandoning your patients.” The nurse said, “but, but…,” put her head down, got teary-eyed, and called home to tell her kids she would be home about midnight. In other words, she caved.
The manager knew there wouldn’t be enough nurses for the evening shift. She knew that eight hours before this incident, but that did not stop her from accepting more and more patient admits. Clearly, this manager’s plan was to mandate nurses to stay and work overtime.
Wait. Isn’t there a law in Minnesota about mandatory overtime? Indeed there is, and it doesn’t take more than a few clicks on Google to find it.
The nurses called the Minnesota Department of Labor, Labor Standards Division. We asked about nurses and overtime laws. A very nice man said, “yes, we have the authority over that law.” We explained how nurses were being forced to work overtime and that our boss had threatened to report a nurse for patient abandonment if she didn’t stay. The clerk at the state labor office said that was in violation of Minnesota Statues’ 181.275 REGULATING NURSES OVERTIME. In a matter of minutes, he completed a labor complaint against the hospital.
Since then, no manager has threatened a nurse nor shamed them into working overtime when the nurse feels it would be unsafe for their patients to do so.
The Minnesota Nurses Association advocated for the passage of this law. Every nurse should remember that being mandated is, yes, BOOM—a bunch of outrageous malarkey. As a steward, I have the Minnesota Department of Labor’s number on speed dial and have posted 181.275 REGULATING NURSES OVERTIME on the bulletin board.
A Union Steward