Do Not Work Off The Clock, Nurses!

Employees who regularly work 'off the clock' could experience dire consequences. This article attempts to explain why nurses and other non-exempt healthcare workers should do everything in their power to avoid working off the clock. Nurses Professionalism Article

Do Not Work Off The Clock, Nurses!

The economic climate in this country still remains somewhat sluggish several years after the official end of the Great Recession. In addition, dwindling reimbursement rates from Medicare and private insurance companies have placed an undeniable pinch on the financial bottom line of healthcare facilities across the United States.

Managerial and administrative personnel at hospitals, nursing homes, and other types of entities that provide patient care are under pressure to find ways to slash expenses at every corner to adhere to fiscal budgets. Some questionable methods to keep costs under control may include short staffing, skimping on supplies, and implicitly pressuring hourly workers to get 'off the clock' by a certain time. It is common for many facilities to have written policies explicitly stating that staff members are to clock in no earlier than seven minutes prior to the start of their shifts, and must clock out no later than seven minutes after the scheduled end of each shift.

The practice of working off the clock is all too common in the healthcare industry. According to Osman (2011), the US Department of Labor ("DOL") has pledged to investigate compensation practices throughout the health care industry after finding that many hospitals and nursing homes were not properly paying their health care workers in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). In addition, it is difficult to know how many nurses and other healthcare workers work while off the clock because employees are generally reluctant to discuss this issue out in the open. In other words, the full scope of the problem remains unknown.

Non-exempt employees who receive hourly pay should do everything in their power to refrain from working off the clock under any circumstances because negative consequences might arise. First of all, working off the clock is illegal. Secondly, most companies have policies that strictly forbid the practice of working off the clock. Third, most nursing policies do not cover nurses for any work performed while not clocked in, which would leave the nurse vulnerable in the event of future litigation.

Fourth, healthcare facilities may file HIPAA violations against employees who are working while not on the the clock. For example, many nurses review patient charts prior to punching in for their shifts, but this activity could get them into trouble if someone decides to pursue the issue any further. Also, numerous nurses remain at their workplaces after their shifts have ended to chart while off the clock, which could get them into trouble. Furthermore, any injuries sustained while the healthcare worker was not on the clock may not be covered under worker's compensation policies.

Finally, working while off the clock allows short staffing to continue because companies save money through unpaid work. It leaves administrative staff at healthcare facilities under the impression that a massive workload can actually be completed during the course of an 8 or 12-hour shift. After all, everyone is clocking out on time if they work off the clock. Right? Sure!

Nurses and other healthcare workers who routinely work off the clock are placing themselves in vulnerable positions. If every single worker remained on the clock to complete unfinished work, this might force corporations to confront staffing issues, heavy workloads, and other issues that hinder people from leaving on time. It is time to be paid for all of the services rendered. Do not work if you are not clocked in!


TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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In some facilities, if you raise a fuss about it, you will be fired. It's a sad situation. That is one area where a union contract might be of help.

Only one you are doing a favor to is your CEO...

I have been talking about this for years. I have seen too many nurses work for hours finishing their charting off the clock. And then some emergency occurs and the visitors don't understand why the nurse at the desk doesn't assist with what is going on. Or she does assist, and gets in trouble.

Stop working off the clock!

Specializes in neuro/ortho med surge 4.

We are told it is our time management skills that are lacking and not the workload. Also, you will be written up for overtime and then you can be written up for working off the clock. Catch 22. Managent doesn't want to hear how it was the shift from hell- that is why they are in management- too get away from the crazy bedside.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

A few months ago one of my coworkers casually said, "I'm going to punch out and finish up my charting. I don't want management to get mad at me."

I responded, "The company made tens of millions of dollars in profits last year. This company is making lots of money and I want to be paid for every minute that I work." Another coworker overheard my statement and agreed with me.

I have never been reprimanded for staying clocked in while finishing up undone work. If every nurse remained on the clock while completing their work, this would make corporations deal with high nurse/patient ratios, unbearable workloads, and so forth. It is easy to target one nurse who stays on the clock, but it is way too hard for administration to fire every single nurse in the facility who remains clocked in while finishing up. This would amount to masses of nurses who would need to be replaced and properly trained.

Power comes in numbers. All nurses must stop giving away their free labor by working off the clock. They are making themselves poorer while making healthcare facilities wealthier.

Specializes in Correctional, QA, Geriatrics.

Also you will never be recognized or appreciated for staying over "off the clock" to finish your work. If anything management may view you as weak and easily manipulated into complying with unrealistic expectations.

YES, YES, YES!!! I am so glad this was written. I have seen this everywhere I've been--management bullying and nurses all too willing to "clock out and chart". NURSES! minutes are what your life is made out of! How can you be willing to steal time from your children and give to your employer for no compensation, and at the same time, sell all the other nurses on the floor down the river, while encouraging understaffing? Let your CEO cut his salary, but PLEASE, do not work for free! It endangers both nurses and patients!

We are told it is our time management skills that are lacking and not the workload. Also, you will be written up for overtime and then you can be written up for working off the clock. Catch 22. Managent doesn't want to hear how it was the shift from hell- that is why they are in management- too get away from the crazy bedside.

Have you ever noticed that Nursing is full of no-win situations for nurses?

Am I wrong, or did it not used to be commendable that a nurse (or in my case at the time, a CNA) would tie up all her loose ends before punching out?

It was considered a death knell to your perceived work ethic and reputation to leave stupid things for your on-coming staff.

Management expected us to stay and they paid us for it.

What on earth has happened?

Please, stop being martyrs!

Work has never given me money for free and I'll be darned if I'll give them work for free.

That's not how this relationship is supposed to work!

Being able to clock out when all of my work is actually finished would be a dream come true, but in real life, it just does not work (not where I work). I have worked in quite a few facilities that will reprimand and write you up if you are on the clock 7 minutes past your shift. Management does not care if you had 2 new admissions and a full code on an 8 hour shift. They want you off the clock! It's sad, but they are fully aware that nurses are charting off the clock, and they never, ever, mention a word about that. I have been a nurse for almost 20 years, and it was never like that before, but now the almighty dollar rules! I see so many nurses taking way too many shortcuts just to finish on time. If nurses did things like that 10 years ago they would have been fired on the spot, now management just turns a blind eye to everything. I work thru my lunch breaks and never go to the bathroom during my shift. I make sure all of my "floor work" is complete, and then I go find some cubby to hide in to do my charting. I am not sure when things got so bad... I know they say it's a nursing shortage, but it sure does not seem that way where I live, you have 10 nurses waiting to take your job if you want to complain about anything. P.s. I am not trying to be negative; I am just telling the truth about what I have experienced.