It would not be tolerated in any other line of work, but nurses sometimes work through their breaks and are forced to stay over for various reasons. All this would be fine, but some facilities are refusing to pay nurses for their extra work.
Unfortunately, nurses are reluctant to stand up for themselves when it comes to asking for their overtime pay. We sometimes feel that we have to do the job right, and if that takes a long time, then so be it.
However, some facilities crack down on overtime, and they severely reprimand nurses who have a bunch of extra hours. This bullying cannot be accepted and something has to be done in facilities where nurses are expected to work without pay.
Lunch? What Lunch?
One of the most common ways that nurses work overtime without pay is by simply missing lunch. Technically, for an eight-hour shift, we should get one 30-minute break and two ten minute breaks.
As many nurses know, this just doesn’t happen that often. In some facilities, you can punch out without lunch and are paid that extra half hour, but some facilities automatically deduct your lunch, regardless of how your shift went.
And that’s the problem: facilities are automatically deducting lunch breaks when they aren’t being taken, and that means you are working without pay. If you don’t take a lunch, then you should be paid that extra half hour.
Every bit counts, and you may find yourself up against quite a bit of resistance if your facility does this. They may insist you take your lunch, even if it isn’t possible.
Staying After to Chart . . . for Meetings . . . for Anything
Aside from stealing lunches, the problem of unpaid overtime extends far beyond such small potatoes. Many nurses are forced to clock out, and then they have to make sure their charting is done, finish any loose ends, or otherwise do work off the clock.
Some nurses even have to stay after for meetings or come in on off time for seminars. In most facilities, these are paid overtime, but some places do not pay for the time you take for mandatory education or meetings.
When a nurse has a rough shift, though, it is common to need to stay beyond the end to finish everything up. Facilities should pay for this, but many nurses fear for their jobs because they are reprimanded for having too much overtime.
It is unfair to nurses to expect them to work without pay, and they should stay on the clock to finish up, no matter how long that takes. Unfortunately, not all facilities agree with this or understand why a nurse would need so much time after a shift is over.
Confronting Facilities about Unpaid Overtime
It may be difficult to change your facility’s mind about unpaid overtime, but it isn’t fair and it isn’t legal. If you can’t do your work during your shift, you need to tell your supervisor what’s keeping you from finishing on time.
You can expect a great deal of resistance about this issue, and it may take whistleblowing to stop the practice of unpaid overtime. This means going to the media, taking the case to higher ups in the company, and being a lightning rod for controversy.
This very idea can make some nurses shy away from speaking out because they don’t want to lose their jobs. However, with a number of nurses making the case, the facility can’t fire everyone.
It is a tricky situation, and not one without its risks. If you work in a facility where unpaid overtime is the norm, merely leaving may be your solution to the problem, but at some point, a nurse is going to have to take a stand against unfair business practices.