To Claim or Not to Claim? (The OT Struggle)

overtime nursesTo Claim OT or Not To Claim? That is the Question…

I don’t know about your hospital or your floor or your management team, but in some of them, there’s this culture of discouraging nurses to claim OT (overtime). I’m not talking about the OT that they ask you to make when the floor is short-staffed. That, we all know, they HAVE to pay! I’m talking about the “other” type of OT, the involuntary one…

I’ll explain myself with an example.

Sasha * (fictive name) has been working on a surgical floor for at least 10 years. She’s seen it all, the highs the lows…she is THE resource person when it comes to difficult veins, pre-coding patients or any critical situation in which you need a good senior nurse advice.

She’s also a very caring nurse, and that’s inspiring. Even after all these years, you can still feel she loves what she’s doing…that although some days are really bad, she’s in the right place and making a difference in people’ lives.

But there is an overall issue on Sasha’s floor…It’s called: TIME MANAGEMENT

See, there are so many responsabilities, so many activities to do for each and every patient. Plus the ratio nurse-to-patient is very unbalanced and unsafe. Many complaints have been made, but the floor has a reputation of being crazy, so very few nurses apply to it. And the ones that are there either leave after 2 years, jusy enough to get a decent experience, or stay and count their days to retirement.

But Sasha doesn’t like to complain. She just goes with the flow. If she misses her breaks, it’s no biggie.

no coffee break nurse life“I wasn’t hungry anyway” is her favorite answer.

Sometimes, she’s also late on her charting. By the end of the shift, she needs to “binge chart”… which often makes her late to go home.

These are some of the things that happen quite often to the average nurse working on a busy floor. There’s nothing new under the sun.

But another problem with Sasha is that she never claims her OT. When she misses breaks, or go late at home due to the madness of the floor, she never fills that OT paper out.

“Back in the days, we were only 3 nurses, and we were NEVER claiming OT…we just knew life that way.”

It is true that a lot of things have changed in the nursing profession. But one of them would be patient’s complexity. Most of our patients have co-morbidities that need to be taken into account when they’re taken cared of. Your patient who’s on a medical floor for a pneumonia, may also be diabetic with foot ulcers and dressings to do. You can’t see things at face-value. You have to dig deeper and work harder…

You can imagine Sasha’s stupor when a bunch of new nurses arrived on the floor… after so many years of not having a big group of new nurses on the floor.

And these girls knew their rights…they weren’t up for slavery! So whenever they were missing breaks, or going home late due to the madness of the floor, they’d make sure their OT sheet was signed up by the assistant nurse manager….

They had a couple of remarks from management. But, like I said… they knew their rights… they knew they were entitled to their paid OT if it were justified…. and it would always be justified due to the acuity of this particular floor.

And they sure weren’t scared to call the union if needed…unhappy nurse calling union overtime not paid

Somehow that kind of made Sasha and the older nurse upset. But why?

It’s hard to tell…

It was kind of strange, when you think about it, because they, too, were entitled to claim OT if needed. But for some reason, they seem to see it as being greedy, or disloyal, as if those young nurses were less caring and more money-driven. It’s as if they were kind of saying “if the money ain’t there, we won’t do it.” And it didn’t resonate well with Sasha, nor with the rest of the team.

On top of that, these girls would also take their afternoon breaks, when working 12 hour shifts…THEIR AFTERNOON BREAKS! All the floor nurses had heard they were entitled to a 45 min supper break in the afternoon, but none or very few had the “luxury” to take it. But that wasn’t going to happen with team new nurses. They were taking what they were entitled to. But that also meant they were delegating stuff to other nurses, who already had a lot on their plates.

All of those situations created tension, and a schism between the old and the new nurses.

Eventually, there was a mini exodus: those 4 new nurses decided to take a position on another floor, after being on the floor for a year approx. They couldn’t put up with the culture of the floor and felt tired to be called the ‘mean girls” for no apparent reason.

And Sasha and the other nurses resumed their way of caring for patients… tirelessly and without saying a word.

What do you think about this story?
Is there a wrong and a right party?
What could have been done to ensure both parties were taking what they were entitled to?

I want to hear from you, from your experience, as I’m sure some of you have lived similar situations.

Share with us!
RN Didi

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