stop a moment and give me an estimate of the number of hours a week you work for free

Nurses General Nursing


I am convinced that I am not the only one who has donated a large amount of unpaid labor to the health care system over the course of my career. As a young nurse I would come in 15 min. early and start report, half way through I would stop and pumch in and then continue. The reason for this was that there was only 15 min coverage on nightshift from the last shift and report took a lot longer than that. There would be a lot of falls and other incidents during that time period I was not out on the floor assisting the non licensed person who was all alone. Over a ten years period that added up to a lot of money. I went to managment about it but they refused to provide the proper coverage and refused to pay me. I also put it in writing which got me on the S list of a big boss, I could see there eyes glaze over when I talked about it, I can recogize the behavoirs of a boss who is blocking me out in a second from those days. I know I could of gone to labor relations as another nurse did but that merely resulted in the nurse being told to stop. She was never paid and the problems with the patient injuries continue. Anyway, I wised up and got a job where proper coverage at shift change was provided but they were always so busy I never got a meal break or at least a full meal break. Then I changed again to another job where neither of the problems I am mentioning occured, at least for the first ten years I was there. Then the cutbacks and financial problems started and all of us found doing all kinds of stuff we were not getting paid for even though most of had been heard to say in the past that we would never do so. So anyway, lets figure one hour a week, and that is a low estimate, a year for me for 30 years which comes to 1500 hours of unpaid labor during just one career. How about you, have you had the same experiences?



1,301 Posts

Hi oramar,

I tell you what, I will need to double those "off" hours to 3000 if I stay in nursing 30 years. I'm in home health, and I can't tell you the number of hours I have spent doing paperwork after regular office hours. Unfortunately, it's supposed to get worse. Now that I think about it, make that 4500. When I worked in the hospital, I not only missed breaks and mealtime, I stayed over to complete charting, because during the shift, I was doing my smiley face routine to protect myself and the hospital from a possible lawsuit and keep the doctors and families happy. Despite all this, I still endorse nursing as a career option. Imagine that!


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

I am convinced that nurses are providing a huge, unappreciated subsidy to the health care industry in the form of unpaid labor. It has gone on in hospitals for years and recently has gotten worse. However, I do believe there is even more of it going on in MDs offices and home health. I know someone who works in a MDs office that told me she is doing 10 to 20 hrs of uncompensated paper work a week at home at night. She says the doctor she works for is not at fault because he is being pinched by reduced reimbursements by his HMO. I wonder if the poor fellow is being forced to drive a Chevy instead of a BMW these days. She is supposed to be a hourly worker but is paid like a salaried worker. Someone who is working on their MSN or Phd in nursing should do their dissertation on the situation. However, it is a sticky situation because the University that run the health centers are also the potential employers of the people with advanced degrees. I am sure this is another "head in the sand" subject as far as university health systems are concerned.



53 Posts

I agree, we all put in lots of hours without being compensated with pay. Do you think folks working in a factory would do that? I think not! I am currently salaried, and I can say that on an average I donate 500 hrs or more per year, (others I know put in alot more than that!) without additional pay. I remember hearing about a male that work for Bill Gates (salaried) that did this without getting paid for it. He was overlooked for a promotion, and turned around and sued Bill for all the pay. Bill fought it, but lost in federal court. The employee was smart, he kept track of all the extra hours - how many of us do that? I understand this is all covered under the unfair labor practice act. Look it up. We are to get paid for actual hours worked - obviously we are not! Don't get me wrong, I really like my job, but I don't know what the answer is - speak up and protest - change your hours, or change your job. We all have choices. You could also inquire about this when applying for a job. Some things are just taken for granted that it will occur without any additional pay.

[This message has been edited by NurseRachet (edited August 06, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by NurseRachet (edited August 06, 2000).]

Jay-Jay, RN

633 Posts

I work in home health care, and unpaid hours is my major beef about the job! We receive our client information via fax, so we have to have a home office. I estimate I spend about an hour a day in my office, doing unpaid paperwork or liason over the phone with case managers, doctors, etc. We also are not compensated for travel time, breaks or meals. Lunch is most often eaten on the run -- a quick sandwich and drink, grabbed from the takeout window, and eaten behind the wheel of the car, while driving between patients. I know, what a lousy example for our patients!!

Also, each client's case is given a coding, with an allowed time for the visit. If the visit runs overtime, we often are not compensated for the extra time. You know you're a home health nurse, when you think working 10 hours a day and only getting paid for 8 is perfectly normal!


21 Posts

Oramar, What an interesting topic you've started. I know I usually end up working about 6-8 extra hours a week.(sometimes 12)Since I'm salaried. It's all for NOTHING!:rolleyes I have been trying to come up with an idea for my Master's thesis (which I start this semester in grad school) and I think this would be a very intriguing topic. Thanks for the idea. Diane


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

Originally posted by dianee:

Oramar, What an interesting topic you've started. I know I usually end up working about 6-8 extra hours a week.(sometimes 12)Since I'm salaried. It's all for NOTHING!:rolleyes I have been trying to come up with an idea for my Master's thesis (which I start this semester in grad school) and I think this would be a very intriguing topic. Thanks for the idea. Diane [/quote

There could be an element of risk in bringing up this topic. A person who would follow up on this subject with real research would have to be very brave. I got a feeling you could find yourself quite unpopular in certain circles, take care. The thought of bringing it up in an anonymous forum like this even gave me pause. I think the whole situation is related to the fact that nursing is a female dominated profession, even an old over the hill RN can figure that one out.


Mary H.

16 Posts

Unfortunately, it is usually a clue when a position is salaried that you will be putting in more than 40 hours/week. I am have had several salaried management/administrative positions and put in a usual week of 50 hours and more much of the time. As a manager, I do not believe in having staff donate time to the facility. First, it is illegal to have hourly people working off the clock, second, I need records of overtime to help justify changes in positions, increases in staffing, etc. I do think that patterns of overtime need to be addressed with individual staff members, but now, much of the problem in most places is the fact that there is too much work to do in the time allowed. I like to have staff groups address issues that impact overtime, i.e., how can we streamline report, where is the point that you are OK leaving work for the next shift. I still have to constantly remind staff nurses to write down their overtime, and I do not capture the majority of the time staff members are working overtime. It is not from lack of trying, however.

bunky, BSN, RN

187 Posts

Yes Oramar. I routinely do at least 45 minutes a day of "charity work" by not taking a lunch break and taking only one of my 15 minute breaks. If it comes to light then we are brow beaten but not once do the managers or supervisors offer to cover for you to take that lunch break. I'll take it one step further and ask you to take a peek into the hospital cafeteria someday either at lunch or around 10:00am and note who you see sitting in the cafeteria enjoying a break! Nursing Supervisors, nurse managers and management staff! Go ahead and look. Kind of interesting isn't it?


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

Does this sound familiar? A nurse unable to finish work in 8 hrs. is told by supervisor that overtime cannot be authorized. The nurse has a choice of leaving without making sure the patients are safe or his/her license is safe. The nurse then punches out and comes back and finishes up. The supervisor has said, in not so many words, punch out and come back. However, if push comes to shove the supervisor's back side is covered because they never actually said punch out and come back. Managemnet is covered because if labor relations comes sniffing around there is nothing on the clock. However, if there would be some sort incident that would lead to a law suit the hospital has a official policy of no patient care unless you are on the clock and the nurse would find themselves in big trouble. If you do you are damned, if you do not you are damned. These are the constant catch 22 situations nurses are caught in daily. God, it is no wonder I got out.

Patricia Smith

26 Posts

In our institution we utilize time clocks...the last place that I worked, the "unspoken" word there was "clock out and then finish your charting" Administrators made us feel as though we had organized our time badly and that was why we couldn't fnish charting etc during our 12 hour shift--Finally, I wised-up--went to the Labor Board and got information on working "off the clock". When the next time came and my nurse manager wanted me to "clock-out and finish" I advised her that I was not going to clock out until I WAS finished. She stated that "It will not be authorized over-time" I told her that was fine but I needed documentation that I was still there at work during those hours--Guess what? I got PAID! Also, I wrote down "NO LUNCH" when I didn't receive a lunch--We are all anatomically correct and have spines--we need to stand up straight and use them! Let us stop being bullied by managers who are only interested in the bottom line! There are resources at the Labor Board. Take a few minutes from your busy day, read them and utilize them. They are there for your protection (as well as that of our patients) I would love to see this subject made into a thesis! Luck to all of you!

This topic is now closed to further replies.

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X