Can nurses refuse to work overtime in Texas?


As many Houston workers are likely all too aware, gone are the days when
one could expect to work just eight hours in a day. Nowadays, those in
certain industries, especially healthcare, routinely put in extremely
long days in the interests of those they serve. Nurses, for example, often
work 12-hour shifts, but overtime can cause overworked nurses to make
life-threatening mistakes or exhibit nursing negligence. How has the State
of Texas addressed the issue of fatigued nurses?

In 2009, state lawmakers amended the Nursing Practice Act with a key provision.
Senate Bill 476 noted that a nurse’s refusal to work mandated overtime
does not meet the definition of patient neglect or abandonment. The Texas
Board of Nursing, however, emphasizes that while a nurse can refuse mandatory
overtime, the nurse is not exempt from the duty of each nurse to always
provide for patient safety. In addition, SB 476 applies only to nurses
working in hospitals.

Essentially, a nurse’s overall duty is to act in the patient’s
best interests. Still, this duty can be confusing when an overworked or
fatigued nurse has made a critical mistake. Nursing errors such as failure
to treat an infection can have unmistakably tragic results, but the question
of who is ultimately responsible can be less clear-cut. When a fatigued
nurse makes a mistake, was it the nurse, a supervising doctor or the nurse’s
employer who is liable for the error? An experienced Houston malpractice
attorney can help a victim of nursing negligence answer this key question.

While all areas of nursing require the utmost attention to patient care,
obstetrics and gynecology can be a particularly challenging area of the
profession. Nurses are often caring for two patients at once, an expecting
mother and her unborn child. Sadly, it is all too possible for an overworked
nurse to make a devastating error that affects mother, baby or both. Today,
while a fatigued nurse can refuse mandatory overtime, there’s no guarantee
that they will do so. As a result, nursing errors still have the potential
to harm hospital patients and their families.