Meet Miss Eunice Lenz, Director of Nursing Service.
She is so professional that when she has a disagreement with a doctor, she takes them up to the roof to yell at them.
I know I want the Chicago skyline in the backdrop when I yell at a doctor!
Obviously it’s her day off because she’s in street clothes.
Now that’s what I call a professional!
(Oh, by the way, at the top of the payscale on the day shift, a full-time RN at this time in this hospital was making $2.68 per hour. What was minimum wage, negative 75 cents?)
It had been a rough night and I had a pile of charts to finish.
Being the social animal that I am, I retired to the break room to write so as not to be tempted into conversation.
Presently the night supervisor came in for a cup of coffee and sat down at the table.
Rough night for her, too. She had five sick calls to fill and no one had called her back.
We started talking about “the old days”. She’s been a nurse a little longer than I, but not much.
We remember the “old days”.
In the old days, you didn’t worry about claiming overtime if it took an extra fifteen minutes to finish your shift because you knew that on the days when it was quiet you could leave twenty minutes early.
If you had a chance to eat something, even if it was only for fifteen minutes, you didn’t mind. It balanced out the nights where we’d put on a full pot luck dinner in the lounge and munch all night. Coffee breaks? There were times we wouldn’t have known a coffee break if it came up and bit us on the butt.
Then again, there were shifts with low census where you could sit with the paper or watch a TV show with a patient.
If there were nights when you had to “take one for the team” you did it without bitching.
In the old days, you didn’t play “tit-for-tat”. You were all a part of the team. You felt as though you were the facility. You worked until the work was done and when you took advantage of the quieter times, the administration didn’t mind.
And you sure as hell didn’t punch a clock.
Fast forward to today.
Instead of documenting their hours on paper, nurses punch a clock, at least in my facility.
Professionals do not punch a clock. Never met a doctor who did. I know lawyers don’t. In fact, I don’t think police officers, paramedics or firefighters punch a clock. I’ll go as far to say that I’m pretty sure my garbage collectors don’t punch a clock.
We are required to take a lunch, by law, and we are paid penalty pay if we don’t get one. Breaks, too. This sounds like a good thing on the surface.
But…we are not allowed to punch in early, even if we happen to get to the unit ten minutes before the shift. And we can’t punch out early without our pay getting docked. Even if there are no patients in the department.
When we go on our meal breaks we have to take a timer because if we take longer than 30 minutes, the pay gets docked.
So now you have a scene that makes my blood boil every time I see it.
Nurses standing around a time clock waiting for the exact minute when they can punch out – a group of professional men and women standing at the mercy of a machine in order to get their pay.
The result of this mechanization? This subtle “deprofessionalization” of nursing?
A different attitude..
No more “taking one for the team”. No more sense of “oneness” with the facility.
If I work ten minutes over the end of my shift, I will damn well get paid for it.
I used to write it off as helping out the next shift.
Nights where I don’t quite get dinner, the ones that used to be chalked up to the nature of the profession?
No more. I don’t eat, I will damn well get paid for it.
I used to write it off as par for the course on a busy night.
I would love to see how much more money the facility is paying in penalties and overtime now that the nurses are forced to punch a clock.
It’s not just my facility, by the way. I see this whenever and wherever nurses are “punching” in and out.
What these hospitals have gained in expediting their payroll, they have lost in the sense of “oneness” nurses used to feel with their hospital.
And my facility is the Taj Mahal of hospitals!
I can’t even imagine what it’s like in lesser facilities.
Speaking of quiet times, when the census was down….
In the old days the staff showed up every day as usual. If it was slow, someone might have to float.
That was never fun, but we took turns and I’d always volunteer if it was the OB/GYN floor. (In the old days, the babies were on one side and the gyn surgeries on the other side of the wing.)
Even better was that you could take an “EA” day – excused absence and actually take a day off! If you wanted to get paid, you took a vacation day and if you didn’t, no big deal. We took turns with those, too!
On the floors, if the census was down, you’d actually have less patients per nurse and more time to spend with each one of them.
Today, if the census drops you are either canceled (if you are a per diem) or you are sent home in the middle of the shift.
Yes, we have nurse/patient ratios here in California, but instead of ever being able to have an easy night on the floors/telemetry when the census is down, they simply drop the number of nurses to the exact ratio required.
I’m an ER nurse. We admit patients 24/7. In the old days, you staffed for potential admissions. You know, left a little leeway just in case.
I’m actually going to work in an hour; someone called in sick and I’m covering a few hours.
You could call it taking one for the team, but I will be paid handsomely for coming in on a day off and on a weekend, too.
But something tells me I should be signing my charts as “T. Rex, RN”.
Because even though they weren’t perfect,
I miss the old days.