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“I Have to Work Overtime? Are You Serious?”

August 25th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Have you ever heard of jobs where people are forced to work mandatory overtime? Did you even know that this exists in North America in the year 2010?  It does and it happens more than you might think – and it happens in nursing.

Whether there’s a nursing shortage where you are or not, there are often situations where nursing staff is caught short. Either more people than usual call in sick, the management didn’t staff the floors properly, or weather or outside forces made it impossible for nurses to come to work. Regardless of why, it happens.

The first step when someone can’t cover their shift is for the supervisors or nurse managers to find someone to come in. That can’t always happen, no-one is available to work. So there are two choices left: work short or ask someone to work overtime.

In some cases, working short isn’t an option – the nurse is absolutely needed or the patients won’t be cared for. So, if working short isn’t an option and no nurses want to work overtime, what is the solution? In some places, it is forced or mandatory overtime.

Imagine working eight or 12 hours. You’re tired. You want to go home. But your manager comes to tell you that you can’t because it’s your turn to work overtime. But what about getting your kids off to school? What about your aging parents who are depending on you to make supper for them and help them get ready for bed? What about those expensive concert tickets that you splurged on for a special night out with friends? None of that matters – not if you’re told you have to work overtime.

Studies repeatedly show that overtired and stressed nurses make more mistakes than rested ones. So, take a nurse who is exhausted from working a full shift and she is worried about her children at home. How effective will she be?

But what is the solution? In some places, there just isn’t anyone to hire to work as extra nurses. What is the hospital supposed to do if they can’t find anyone to staff?

Is there a solution? There has to be. Because the more tired and frustrated our nurses get, the more they’re going to take sick leave or just up and quit. Leaving even fewer nurses to fill in the holes.

What do you think? How can this problem be solved?

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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