The unit is understaffed and the nurse is asked to work a double shift. What is the best way for the nurse to decline an assignment?


•The nurse’s duty to the client begins once they accept an assignment (which begins on the first shift worked). The nurses' right to refusal of mandatory overtime varies, based on state law and facility policy.

•If a nurse is asked to continue working into a second consecutive shift, the nurse must use critical judgement to decide if he or she can provide competent care into that shift and then communicate - in writing -  if he or she is unwilling or unable to do so.

•Objection to the assignment must be made in writing to the immediate supervisor, citing the objections to the assignment, and may also include alternatives to meet the patient care needs.  Solid grounds for refusal of an assignment include religious protection, a conscience clause (clauses excusing staff from providing care for reasons of conscience such as abortion or sterilization), or objections that uphold the public good. Additionally, nurses should always refuse assignments outside the their legal scope of practice as defined by their state's nurse practice act.

•Depending on the state, nurses who refuse to accept a work assignment after for that shift's report can be charged with abandonment if qualified staff are cannot be found to care for the patients who were assigned to that nurse. 

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