If Nurses are "Essential", Why Can't We Be Treated Like It?

Updated | Posted

Specializes in Psych/Med Surg/Teaching. Has 3 years experience.

2011102323_why-are-we-not-treated-like-weareessential.jpg.7fc2a321800d94aaff6a38a5f508be5a.jpg

I've been working through this entire pandemic and it has been nothing but stressful. I am now motivated more than ever to find work off bedside. I now join the increasing number of burnt out nurses who look to leave bedside. Which is awful because bedside is the most important part of nursing. I look at my friends with envy as they all don't have to commute. Or those who were lucky enough to have their facilities shut down and collect significantly more than I do on unemployment. Meanwhile I'm over here wearing mask and goggles for 12.5 hours each night while being begged to pick up at least another four hours, all while dealing with my increased workload as we can't even get to minimum staffing levels. Not even to mention being at an increased risk to exposure to getting covid. All this while having my paycheck taxed to oblivion. I worked unbelievable amounts of overtime this last period because I need to pay off my credit card. I worked every holiday, I worked at least 100 hours a pay period. I lost 55% of my paycheck to taxes, I really needed that money and I put in the time and effort to make it. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to sacrifice so much during the holidays and then to just have most of it taken away. 

Where is the incentive to work during this time!? I'm not in it for just the money, when the patients praise me for the work I've been doing, it feels great. But I am burnt out from the increased workload and now I have to ask my family for money to pay off my bills. There are those making significantly more than me on unemployment while just sitting at home. I know this because they brag about it. There is no doubt in my mind that covid has made things significantly harder on all of us working bedside. But what's the point of it now!? The government can't even give us hazard pay or even a measly tax break.  If we, as nurses, are so essential during this time, why can't we be treated like it? 

Sour Lemon

Has 12 years experience. 5,015 Posts

@Catalin

Good luck. They are moving non-bedside staff to the bedside in my area. I get the stress, but if you're working loads of overtime and can't pay your bills, then how did you pay them before?

I was furloughed early on, and it was an absolute dream. Unemployment paid much more than I usually made, and I didn't even have to get out of bed. I was recalled, of course ...and it was the saddest thing ever. I briefly thought about "developing a cough", but I was too honest or too stupid to follow through. My consolation is, as this thing drags on and funding dries up, I at least have a secure income. Many others do not.

Are you required to work so much overtime? If not, set some limits for the sake of your sanity.

As far as essential work goes, it helps me to remember that virtually everyone who works is essential. Surgery and antibiotics would be of no use if we didn't have people to harvest wheat, bake bread, pick up garbage, mop floors, drive buses, etc.

Anyway, if you have a better option then take it. Otherwise, I hope things get better for you soon.

 

Nunya, BSN

Specializes in NICU/Mother-Baby/Peds/Mgmt. Has 40 years experience. 771 Posts

There's a point at which working too much overtime doesn't become advantageous tax wise.  I don't know where it is cuz I've never worked that much in one pay period.  You need to stop it.  Just say no.  By working so much OT that you're stressed out you're allowing the hospital to not do their job, which is to make sure that staffing is adequate.  If you can't just say "no" and stare them down then say you have an appointment.  It can be an appointment with your bed to sleep, no one needs to know that.  The more you say yes to OT the more they'll ask.

JBMmom, MSN, NP

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 1,941 Posts

I understand your feelings about working too may hours and it's not worth it anymore, I've also averaged 55-60 hours per week for months and I finally decided enough is enough and when our next schedule is posted I will work my scheduled hours and nothing more. An extra $50 per shift isn't worth it to pick up anymore. 

However, I am grateful to have been considered essential throughout all of this. I can't imagine that unemployment would have been more than my paycheck and even if it were, that's an uncertain thing not knowing when the benefits run out, how I would cover my bills. My son and I volunteer at a local food pantry every week and throughout this pandemic we've seen people drive up every week scared and embarrassed because they've never had to ask for assistance before but right now they cannot feed their family. Every one of them would have switched with me in a heartbeat to get up and go to work every day. I'm also not very good being at home so had I been furloughed I would have struggled with it. 

I hope you can find something that works better for you. Take care of yourself. 

SmilingBluEyes

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 25 years experience. 20,878 Posts

By the time taxes are paid, OT is hardly worth it. I always say no.

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU. 536 Posts

I think the job market really is becoming a lot more competitive because a lot of nurses are choosing to jump ship so to speak. I know I chose to jump ship from the ER not just because of the whole covid chaos, but because I was already past burnout from working in unsafe patient ratios, unsafe staffing, high acuity levels and not enough nurses to cover the staff, the workplace violence in the ER, etc. Covid just added another level to an already failing healthcare system and demonstrated the already present and evident weaknesses.

Saying that - there are some bedside nursing jobs that aren't terrible. I am in pre-op and PACU and enjoy it. There are small issues - the arrogence of surgeons can get old, the nit-pickiness of silly little things, the redundancy of the job.....however, at this point in my life, the pros far outweigh the cons and that's what I try to focus on. I would like a non-bedside nursing job sometime in the future, such as in education or quality improvement. However, at this point in my life, I am content with where I am in my career.

Moral of the story - there are bedside nursing jobs that have less of a burden or cause less moral distress.

GrumpyRN, NP

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 40 years experience. 1,177 Posts

On 1/8/2021 at 2:46 AM, Catalin said:

 I lost 55% of my paycheck to taxes,

Sorry, I am not trying to derail the topic but I have a question. Please feel free to ignore it if you want.

Whenever I have had discussions on this site with American nurses they seemed horrified that in the UK I would pay approximately one third of my salary to taxes and deductions but you seem to be saying that 55% is normal. Also remember that I do not pay on top of this for health care or sickness benefit or unemployment benefit. Should also add that my working conditions, holidays, sick time etc., are better.

Thank you for clarifying this or as I say, just ignore it. 😄

 

JKL33

6,090 Posts

29 minutes ago, GrumpyRN said:

Sorry, I am not trying to derail the topic but I have a question. Please feel free to ignore it if you want.

Whenever I have had discussions on this site with American nurses they seemed horrified that in the UK I would pay approximately one third of my salary to taxes and deductions but you seem to be saying that 55% is normal. Also remember that I do not pay on top of this for health care or sickness benefit or unemployment benefit. Should also add that my working conditions, holidays, sick time etc., are better.

Thank you for clarifying this or as I say, just ignore it. 😄

 

This is a common myth as far as OT not being worth it due to higher taxes on the random run-of-the-mill person for a given paycheck on which they had OT.

Their (tax) withholdings from that check may have been withheld at a higher rate, mostly because of the way withholding works. But that person's actual tax liability (rate) is still the same and if they are otherwise due for a tax refund they are going to get back a refund in line with the fact that they had more withheld on that check.

I'm not explaining clearly, but here are the US tax brackets. No nurse is independently in a 55% tax bracket, if they are they are an extreme exception. Look at the brackets. I would guess most of us (if single income) over here would fall into the 22 or 24% brackets. As a single RN you'd have to have an unusually sweet gig to ever get to 32% bracket.

JKL33

6,090 Posts

To simplify: No one got taxed at a 55% rate. They happened to have 55% withheld from a particular check. They are going to get a tax refund at the end of the year that is in line with the final tax bracket based on their final annual income. If they happened to jump tax brackets in all their OT activity, then they will get taxed at a higher actual rate.  If they didn't, they won't.

 

GrumpyRN, NP

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 40 years experience. 1,177 Posts

Thank you, here in the UK we have PAYE, Pay As You Earn. Tax and all other deductions are taken off before you get your pay. You will tend to only get a tax rebate if something has changed or a mistake has been made. Taxes are all done by the pay office. Overtime is just part of your salary or wage.

juan de la cruz, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in APRN, Adult Critical Care, General Cardiology. Has 30 years experience. 9 Articles; 4,328 Posts

42 minutes ago, JKL33 said:

I'm not explaining clearly, but here are the US tax brackets. No nurse is independently in a 55% tax bracket, if they are they are an extreme exception. Look at the brackets. I would guess most of us (if single income) over here would fall into the 22 or 24% brackets. As a single RN you'd have to have an unusually sweet gig to ever get to 32% bracket.

...which can be unfair for us in high income, high cost of living areas such as California.  Nurses here easily fall in the 32% and higher tax brackets.  

JKL33

6,090 Posts

4 minutes ago, juan de la cruz said:

Nurses here easily fall in the 32% and higher tax brackets.  

Tell me more. 🙂