A handful of Iowa nurses lobbied at the state capitol today (Wednesday) for a bill that would prohibit supervisors from giving them mandatory overtime. Cedar Rapids nurse Mary Schlichte says today’s nurses are working longer hours and caring for sicker patients. She says there’s a nursing shortage and says mandatory overtime is only making the problem worse. She says the nurses after being asked repeatedly to do this, put their patients at risk, put their health at risk, with no consideration for their families. She says the nurses often leave. Schlichte supports a bill introduced in the Iowa house that prohibits mandatory overtime for nurses and sets specific nurse-to-patient ratios for the operating room, E-R and maternity ward. Schlichte says she and others in the profession became nurses because they wanted to help people. They also tend to leave it, she says, when they feel they can’t provide the care patients need any longer, and adds that improving working conditions is an important way to encourage them to stay in their profession. The bill’s sponsor, representative Pat Murphy, says it’s not just about helping nurses but also protecting patients. Murphy says yesterday he worked a 14-hour day but wasn’t responsible for sticking a needle in anyone, applying a defibrillator to their chest, or checking on catheters — and says in providing health care it affects quality and also the cost, as mistakes can be made if someone’s working long hours. Representative Murphy, a democrat from Dubuque, says the legislature should limit nurses’ hours because the private sector has failed to address the problem. The Iowa Hospital Association opposes the bill, saying it’s a one-size-fits-all solution and hospitals need the freedom to move nurses from one ward to another and require overtime when it’s necessary.
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