I found myself back home to Ohio after a 1 1/2 year stent in California as an RN (and I was a regular FTE, not a traveler). The ICU I came from was a well-oiled machine and staff morale seemed to be pretty high. I lived in an area of California where the cost of living was VERY comparable to Ohio, yet nurses were paid upwards of $30/hr and staffing ratios were mandated. If our unit was short a nurse, they were required to fill the hole instead of having the nurses pick up the slack for 4+ hours until a replacement could be found. If we missed any or all of our breaks during the day, and the charge RN was aware, we filled out a form and got paid extra for missing a break/lunch. If we were made to work more than 12 hours in one shift, every hour over that was paid doubletime. In a nutshell, our union had everything to do with this and I was so happy to feel that someone had our backs.
Now that I'm back to Ohio, staffing can be downright unsafe!! Nurses are frequently asked to stay an extra 4 hours because they couldn't find a nurse to fill a hole in staffing. Overtime for us is anything over 80 hours in a pay period.... Meaning, if I have to work an extra four hours each week, I get NO overtime. Basically, if I work one extra day a pay period, it is worthless.... I would only get overtime if I worked two or more shifts. I asked one of the nurses about how unfair this is, and she shrugged her shoulders and said they just "suck it up." Our management has hired tons of new grads to save money and seem to have their hands tied behind their backs most of the time, that they can't always do what's right for the nurses or our patients. We have nursing assistants, but we only get 1-2 to cover 30-something beds, so they're NEVER available when you need them. Not to mention, the pay difference is about 25-30% less in Ohio. There is no nurse's union to have my back and it feels like a nurse's destiny lies in the greedy hands of hospital administrators. Nurses here basically get crapped on and no one has the balls to stand up and fight back!!
California has its problems, but my quality of work environment was the best I've seen, and I've worked for several hospitals in Ohio before moving out to CA.... but isn't there anything that can be done to make the work environment more healthy? Why hasn't anyone stood up and addressed this problem? Feedback??