Need a little help with something that has been bothering me

  1. I started a new job in MICU in November. It turns out that the nurses on the unit do not take their lunch break or any other breaks. When I asked about leaving the unit for a lunch break I was told by my preceptor "Oh we don't leave for lunch breaks. We just stay right here and eat in the kitchen." The kitchen is a little room no bigger than my closet and my closet is small. She said that we don't leave because there is no one to cover our patients. This is happening in all of the ICU units at my hospital. The thing is...they take 1/2 hour from my pay every workday for a lunch break that I don't even take. I know I shouldn't have let it go this far but I really need some insight into this situation. I know it seems petty but that is 1 1/2 hours of missed pay every week.
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  2. 25 Comments

  3. by   caliotter3
    The same thing happened to me when I worked LTC. If I didn't work during my breaks, there would have been that much more noncompensated time after the end of the shift.
  4. by   RNsRWe
    I'm a night shifter, and you described our situation as well. Frequently we don't even have time to take to eat, period. Popcorn is a staple, we usually find the time to push the button on the microwave and dump the contents into a bowl!

    We, too, lose a half hour of pay each and every shift. Don't get me started on the two 15-minute breaks we are paid for but are never able to take, either.

    Does it seem petty? Only to those who either don't lose the time, or administration, who stand by the party line: "you MUST take a half hour break each shift--find someone to cover for you, you HAVE TO take that break and if you don't, it's your own fault". Never mind the fact that patients are likely to become screaming in pain, injured or dead if you disappeared for a half hour, then another half hour during the shift.

    I have taken to finishing my shift a half hour later than necessary: I figure if I *DID* take breaktime, I'd be finishing up later anyway (charting and such). So...after I finish my work, I get a cup of coffee, something to eat in the cafeteria, chat a little, read a magazine, browse through the posted notices. THEN I clock out. That's how I get my half hour break!
    Last edit by RNsRWe on Mar 9, '07
  5. by   JBudd
    We do it on nights just because there really isn't much of a chance to do so when things are slammed in the ER. But days manages, they have a few more people, and they cover for one another's zone. Try asking if someone will swap covering for you, and you for them. Get everything done that might be urgent, let things that aren't wait, tell your swapping nurse all they have to do is listen for anything odd and go.

    Our time clocks have a button for no lunch, if you didn't get off 30 minutes, you get "no lunch".

    Keep a log of how often you are not covered so that you can leave, document that you asked the charge nurse to cover, that your immediate tasks were done and leaving should have been possible. If you rack up enough time, go to your boss and tell her you want back pay. Get your union rep involved if they say no. Send it to the labor board.

    We for so long had so few staff on nights that lunches were really impossible, but now, we've been upstaffed enough that on nights where we aren't absolutely slammed, we should be able to take breaks. New staff or travelers seem to expect lunch breaks! (imagine that), and frankly, I don't have a good reason not to be able to cover them (except on really slammed nights). Sometimes you can change unit culture, by gentle pressure, and simply expecting to get your rights. I am slowly realizing that lunches are now possible! I'm just not used to it.
  6. by   GingerSue
    depends how you think of it
    for eg. when I was doing private duty in the home, I didn't get breaks, I was with the patient at all times (usually 12 hours shifts) - but I was paid well and breaks never even occurred to me.

    and when working in home visiting, there were no breaks scheduled - I planned my own day ( I could have taken breaks if I wanted to, but the visits wouldn't change, so it was for me to plan my day)

    I'm not trying to diminish that you do have a right to your breaks.
    Just to offer a way to look at it.
  7. by   mytoon38
    That was happening to us in LA. in the NICU/Nsy for years. We couldn't leave the unit, because it would leave the unit short. :angryfire We had to eat at the nurses station or not eat! Someone called the labor board and reported it. They told them if you can't leave your unit and take an un-interrupted lunch break, then the hospital HAS to pay you! I am not sure if it is the same in your state!

    The next thing we knew we were all told we were getting checks for all the lunch breaks. :spin: They made the hospital go back and pay us for ALL of the breaks that we had to take in the unit (which were all of them)! Some of us had been there awhile and we got nice big checks. I think they made them go back for 5 years but I am not sure. I know I had been there for all 5 of the years and I got a nice, fat check that I wasn't expecting but was thrilled to have! Since that happened, they don't even deduct the lunch break UNLESS you get to leave the unit, and if you do leave, then you must clock out for your break!

    So if I were you, I would speak up, even if you do it anonymously!:wink2:
  8. by   Hoozdo
    Quote from medicrnohio
    I started a new job in MICU in November. It turns out that the nurses on the unit do not take their lunch break or any other breaks. When I asked about leaving the unit for a lunch break I was told by my preceptor "Oh we don't leave for lunch breaks. We just stay right here and eat in the kitchen." The kitchen is a little room no bigger than my closet and my closet is small. She said that we don't leave because there is no one to cover our patients. This is happening in all of the ICU units at my hospital. The thing is...they take 1/2 hour from my pay every workday for a lunch break that I don't even take. I know I shouldn't have let it go this far but I really need some insight into this situation. I know it seems petty but that is 1 1/2 hours of missed pay every week.
    Sounds just like the MICU I used to work in! Personally, I NEED a half hour break to get away from the sounds and clear my head. 30 minutes of peace with no alarms going off, no phones ringing, no call lights going off.........that is not too much to ask for in a 12.5 hour shift. You are entitled to a break!

    Wait until a time you are caught up with your meds, all your orders are done, your patients are quite and as happy as there going to get. When you would normally sit down to chart - don't. Tell the charge nurse you are going on your 30 minute LUNCH BREAK and your patients don't need anything, could she just listen to alarms for you? If she questions you, just say you need some quite time for 30 minutes each shift. There should be no reason to deny you this.

    Or.........you could say you have some phone calls to make on your cell phone and need privacy to talk on the phone.
  9. by   Happeetxn
    Quote from mytoon38
    That was happening to us in LA. in the NICU/Nsy for years. We couldn't leave the unit, because it would leave the unit short. :angryfire We had to eat at the nurses station or not eat! Someone called the labor board and reported it. They told them if you can't leave your unit and take an un-interrupted lunch break, then the hospital HAS to pay you! I am not sure if it is the same in your state!
    This happened in Texas as well. Employees were charged for lunch breaks that were never taken. A call to the labor commission / board took care of that. Plus that is what Wal-mart is in trouble for in some places. Where I currently work we have a sheet we initial if we don't take a lunch and we are not docked the time. I am fortunate that the manager I have encourages lunch brakes and will cover patients so you can get off of the floor for a little bit. Doesn't always happen but the effort is made, plus if one nurse is having a hectic day and another nurse has easier pt's they are good about covering each other.
    Craig
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
    If you don't get your breaks,clock out "no lunch". Be nobody's martyr.
  11. by   TazziRN
    I work ER. I usually choose not to leave the unit, but I claim a lunch break because I could have. If it's so busy that I could not take a 30 minute break and the house supe could not (or, in one supe's case, would not) relieve me, then I claim the overtime. If we miss a lunch break we get paid for two hours.
  12. by   allantiques4me
    There are laws in our state governing lunch,breaks ect.I suggest you look up labor laws.
  13. by   Spidey's mom
    Quote from allantiques4me
    There are laws in our state governing lunch,breaks ect.I suggest you look up labor laws.
    I think so too . . . all states have some basic fundamental laws.

    If I don't take lunch, I write "no lunch" on my time card and I get paid 1/2 hour extra.

    Your charge nurse or supervisor is responsible to see that you have coverage, not YOU.

    Get all the info you can and then don't put up with this anymore. It is wrong.

    steph
  14. by   moh_sir
    :spin:
    Quote from TazziRN
    I work ER. I usually choose not to leave the unit, but I claim a lunch break because I could have. If it's so busy that I could not take a 30 minute break and the house supe could not (or, in one supe's case, would not) relieve me, then I claim the overtime. If we miss a lunch break we get paid for two hours.

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