On a recent blog post where I was ranting about how night duty sucks, I came across an "interesting" ongoing dispute on the pros and cons of night duty for nurses...
Basically the New South Wales (Australia) Nursing Association is trying to increase penalty rates for nurses working night shift. The current night penalty rate of 15% in NSW has not risen for 34 years!
NSW Health has responded by claiming a penalty increase would be too expensive and that change is unnecessary because everything is working okay
. A spokesperson says, "night shifts in Emergency Departments are satisfying because nurses have a heavy workload, while night shifts in medical wards are likely to involve little more than doing basic observations on a regular basis. "
Additionally, "the witness believes night shifts are so easy that nurses often choose to work nights".
What on earth!?!?
As someone who has loathed night duty for many years, I'm speechless that in the face of so much evidence, NSW Health would be so flippant and callous with their remarks on night duty. What I would suggest, is that they go and WORK a few night shifts, to get that dead feeling for themselves...
More on this dispute at Nurse In Australia
: Night Duty Revisited
I'm not sure I understand the terminology. Is that 15% penalty the same as a 15% shift differential (our term here in the States)? Do you get an additional 15% of your base pay for working nights?
If that's the case, guess I'm a little confused. If the amount were a flat rate that hadn't increased in 34 years, I'd be upset, too. But if it's a percentage, then the actual amount would have risen as base pay increased.
With differentials, it's better to have a percentage of base pay rather than a set amount for this very reason. With a flat rate, you have to renegotiate over and over, but with a percentage, the increase is built in and automatically rises any time the base pay goes up.
If you get a 15% differential, you're better off than many of us. Among the nurses I know, a typical night shift differential is more like 10%.
Last edit by rn/writer on Aug 25, '09
The gist of what is frustrating is that despite evidence to the contrary, NSW health seems to think that working night shifts doesn't have many adverse effects on your body, sleep patterns or your life, and in fact we all enjoy it!
Regarding the specifics of the 'pay rises' (or lack thereof!) you are correct that when percentages are involved, the actual true dollar amount rises with your base pay each year.
Having said that, the base pay rate in Australia is pretty low (compared with US if you convert AUD to USD) - we rely on penalty rates to make it worthwhile.
NSW is behind every other state with their night duty penalty rates (as in, percentage of base rate added on each hour) at 15%. Other states in Oz pay between 20% (QLD) through to 35% (W.A) to work night shifts. When NSW tried to also increase their percentages, the comments made in rebuttal were basically that nights are easy and slow etc which we all know is not the case, and they refused to acknowledge the detrimental effects it can have on your body.
My opinion is, if you're going to work night shifts, you should at least get fairly compensated.
If a typical night shift differential in US is 10%, that seems pretty low to me... Are the conditions similar, ie are all nurses expected to work all shifts (including nights) each month? (as in you don't really get a choice?)
Penalty rates are the only things that make nursing salaries worthwhile in Australia...
Last edit by taeran on Aug 25, '09