slave labor

  1. I work in a medium sized er. Busy place. Usually am charge rn & triage rn (if not triage, I take on full assignment-4 pts., sometimes more if we are using hall beds). It is almost impossible to be responsible for an entire ER, to know what is going on, to be asked questions everytime you turn around; when you are also trying to take care of your own assignment. the last month (at least), none of us have had a lunch break......12 hours running your a@@ off, full tilt, neck breaking pace, and no food. This is ridiculous! I actually looked up on the internet to see if there is some type of board that I could complain to, and found out that the National labor board does not mandate any type of lunch/dinner break! Certain states DO, but not mine. They staff so tight, we have no one to relieve us....we are supposed to relieve each other for breaks.

    Any ideas who/what I can complain to? Don't suggest mgmt. They are well aware....... and have done nothing to change this. I thought maybe state BON? would they do anything? Board of Health? any ideas?

    I worked 5 days out of the last 6, (12 hours) and got a lunch break only on my last day. I was told to send a nurse home if we could. I didn't. I sent our only tech home instead. Jerks. I'm pretty sure management gets lunch breaks every day.

    burning out.............
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  2. 94 Comments

  3. by   TrudyRN
    If you are working through what are supposed to be your lunch breaks, STOP. If your shift includes an extra half hour of unpaid time, that is your meal break. You must stop working through it. You are donating your own time, you are volunteering your break time to your job.

    If anyone gripes at you, just say that you'll be there in just a few minutes. 30 minutes, after all, is pretty short. Just enough time to gulp a few bites, do some quick meditation or prayer to restore your soul/spirit, pee, maybe make a quick call home. Obviously, if anyone's life or limb is threatened during that time, you must get back to work instantly.

    However, when you don't get time to take your UNPAID meal break, you must make sure your employer pays you. It is illegal to not either make sure you get that UNPAID break or pay you for working through it, one of the 2. I think you should take this up first with your boss to give her a chance to rectify the problme, then Admin if no satisfaction with your boss, then OSHA or US Dept. of Labor if no help from Admin.

    As for unpaid rest breaks, I was shocked recently to learn that very few states require employers to give them to adults. Some states require them for minors, if I remember correctly.

    I wonder if it would help to look at the reasons you don't get breaks. In other words, assess the problem. Are you overwhelmed by the doctors' demands, the patients' conditions, or the expectations of Management (who are, I'd bet, routinely getting their breaks)? Or is it some other causes?

    Are there some changes you and your coworkers could make to ensure that you all get your 1/2 hour meal breaks?

    I wish you good luck. If you hit upon a solution, do let us know.
  4. by   TrudyRN
    I just thought of something else you could do. Send an anonymous message to your local TV and radio stations and newspaper. Address it to the public. Tell them that, except for dire emergencies, it is dangerous to their health to come to the ER at _____ times because staff are starving and irritable and not thinking clearly, due to never getting a lunch break. I'm sure that would go over well with everyone. Just kidding, LOL, but public outcry might be a good thing. Maybe your local political leaders can help you?
  5. by   teeituptom
    Go elsewhere to work
  6. by   teeituptom
    and Learn to say no
  7. by   classicdame
    Our Board (Texas) has a Safe Harbor Act that allows the nurse to refuse an assignment when it is unsafe for the patient or for the nurse (like too many patients). Your job is protected. If you live in Texas you need to go to the BNE website and look at the Practice Act. If you live elsewhere you might want to join your chapter of ANA in order to get such a bill lobbied before your state Congress.
  8. by   Uptoherern
    I think what I'd like to do is to go work with teeituptom......

    I always thought that the national labor board regulated breaks for employees, but when I researched it, found that they do not. Some states do have regulations, but most states do not.

    It just irritates me that when we try harder, and do more we aren't usually thanked or recognized for our hard work. Instead, it seems, "they" think that since we were able to do it, we should always be able to do it, and then 'they" come up with more for us to do! In other words, the more work we do, the more we have to do. does that make sense?

    I can't think of another profession that has it's workers running their butts off for 12 hours (and more) a day.
  9. by   Uptoherern
    As for why we don't get breaks, I am certain that it is due to such tight staffing. Sometimes taking care of 4 patients feels like you are taking care of 24. We are supposed to cover each other for lunch. So technically, for 1/2 hour, you are taking care of 8 people. Sometimes, there is no way you can stop & go eat (do I hang the levo first? triage the incoming ems pt.? start an iv on the throwing up person? or just leave & take my break? P.U.
  10. by   carachel2
    Quote from erdiane
    I work in a medium sized er. Busy place. Usually am charge rn & triage rn (if not triage, I take on full assignment-4 pts., sometimes more if we are using hall beds). It is almost impossible to be responsible for an entire ER, to know what is going on, to be asked questions everytime you turn around; when you are also trying to take care of your own assignment. the last month (at least), none of us have had a lunch break......12 hours running your a@@ off, full tilt, neck breaking pace, and no food. This is ridiculous! I actually looked up on the internet to see if there is some type of board that I could complain to, and found out that the National labor board does not mandate any type of lunch/dinner break! Certain states DO, but not mine. They staff so tight, we have no one to relieve us....we are supposed to relieve each other for breaks.

    Any ideas who/what I can complain to? Don't suggest mgmt. They are well aware....... and have done nothing to change this. I thought maybe state BON? would they do anything? Board of Health? any ideas?

    I worked 5 days out of the last 6, (12 hours) and got a lunch break only on my last day. I was told to send a nurse home if we could. I didn't. I sent our only tech home instead. Jerks. I'm pretty sure management gets lunch breaks every day.

    burning out.............

    The beauty of being an RN is there is ALWAYS a choice in what you do. If you feel you are in an unsafe position LEAVE. I will never understand nurses who stay for years and years and complain and nothing ever changes. I totally get that a lot of you are the primary breadwinner for your family. You may need about 3 months to look around, save up $$ and figure out what you want to do.

    I wouldn't stay in conditions like that. In fact........I didn't !
  11. by   xcoprn
    FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) mandates you get at least a half hour break for lunch and at least a 15 minute break for your 12 hour shift, when i miss my lunch which is almost every time i work I stay an extra half hour to get paid for my lunch.

    However, this may become an issue where you work, where i am, we all end up taking our lunch at the end of the shift because no one has the time to take lunch. I know full well that management can retaliate against you "legally" so as with all things you will have to pick your battles.

    What I am famous for at work is putting oatmeal in a styrofoam cup and putting in some hotwater from the coffee machine we have for the paramedics (and yes sometimes I mix in a little coffee too) and that usually helps me from binging on crap at the end of the shift because as you can imagine there is always a feast of junk food at the end of the shift.
  12. by   Ginger35
    Well, I am from Ohio and can relate well. I come from an ER / Trauma background an now currently going for my MBA.

    One thing that I have learned is that THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!!! - They need to pay you for your time or turn them in to which ever board of your choosing.........You are not there to SUBSIDIZE the hospital!!! - Make sure you mention the word SUBSIDIZE.. - perhaps, some of these business people will understand that word!!!

    They don't work for FREE - Why should you?!?!?!
  13. by   Dalzac
    We solved this problem by signing our time sheets with "No lunch" and copying it for our records and if we didn't get compensation we took it to the labor board. After the labor board investigated it the hospital had to give us the OT or added the lunch time to our PTO account We ended up getting more help. It was cheaper to hire another nurse than to give us all this OT and PTO time
  14. by   Jo Dirt
    Nip it in the bud. I know my saturation point is getting lower everyday, I wouldn't last a day at that job, and you shouldn't, either. There is one constant that never fails: if you allow yourself to be used you WILL be used. Every time.

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