News & Events

Nurses and patient advocates gather across the state in name of safe staffing

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October/November 2011 Edition

Standing up for patient care in Boston

View more photos from around Massachusetts


In early autumn, nurses and patient advocates from across the commonwealth gathered together at several press events all in the name of protecting patients and ending mandatory overtime.

The MNA and the Coalition to Protect Massachusetts Patients hosted several press conferences on Sept. 19, just one day prior to the Joint Committee on Health Care’s hearing on the Patient Safety Act (H.1469) and a second bill (H.1506) that would prohibit the dangerous practice of utilizing mandatory overtime as a means of staffing hospitals.

The Patient Safety Act calls upon the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to set safe limits on the number of hospital patients a nurse is forced to care for at one time. The limits would be based on scientific research and testimony from public hearings and, once established, could be adjusted in accordance with patient needs and requirements using a standardized, DPH-approved system. The Bill would also protect against the reduction in the number of other members of the health-care team including LPNs, aides, and technicians. Patients would have the right to know and demand safe limits.

The second bill would prohibit the dangerous practice of utilizing mandatory overtime as a means of staffing hospitals such as forcing exhausted RNs to work extra hours or double shifts. Under this bill, a hospital could not, except in the case of a declared state or national emergency, require or permit a nurse (or other hospital workers, such as nurse’s aides) to work more than 12 hours in any given shift or to exceed 16 hours in a 24-hour period. A nurse who works 12 consecutive hours in a shift must be given at least eight hours off from any work between shifts.

The press conferences drew significant media attention, with MNA members and patient advocates holding events outside Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.