November 11, 2010, 7:07 pm

Guest Post: Working Overtime – Are the Benefits Worth the Risks?

She’s got mail!

Or maybe she’s looking over her pay stub.

Nah, can’t be that. She’s smiling!

The size of our paychecks (and what we go through to increase it) is the subject of this guest post by Julie, a registered nurse with an interest in finance who is a staff writer/blogger at The Millionaire Nurse Blog.

Welcome, Julie and thanks for guest posting at Emergiblog!

Take it away…….


Working Overtime? Are the Benefits Worth the Risks?

We go to work week after week, trudge through shift after shift aiming for that one special day…payday!

There never seems to be enough to meet our financial demands of mortgages, car payments, insurance, child care, fuel, and other day-to-day expenses that keep our wallets and bank accounts drained.

In short, we all just need more money. As nurses, our easiest resource is working overtime.

But after working a long, exhausting week:

  • caring for needy patients and families,
  • running down physicians for orders they failed to give you (not you, Dr. Dean!)
  • dealing with the demands of managers and administrators who are out of touch with the real world

I would be insane to go back for another shift!

But nurses are compassionate creatures. We care about our patients and each other. We can’t just sit at home while our co-workers are struggling, short staffed as usual!

(And that extra $300-$500 sure would be nice!)

So what do we do? We agree to work another shift. It may be simply to pay that overdue bill or maybe those Lucky Brand jeans or the latest techno gadget such as the iPad or Nook reader we’ve had our eyes on. Christmas shopping is the biggie…how can I afford that iPhone my hubby is dying for?

But are the financial benefits worth the risks?

Nurses are extremely concerned about the care their patients receive, yet don’t realize the risks of harm to their patients through increased errors by working extra shifts. Most hospitals have changed nurses’ schedules in recent years from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, lowering staffing requirements for the hospital.

However, studies show that fatigue increases and mental alertness decreases with the extended 12-hour workday even though nurses may not be aware.

Medication errors are the number one area affected by fatigue!


  • Do errors occur during a regular work shift? Sure, they can! But it is more likely to occur when you?ve worked longer hours, are physically tired, and not as mentally sharp.
  • Your family…whether you have children or not, the strain your work places on you mentally and physically not only affects you, it also affects your spouse and children.

Nurses who work extra hours seem to burn out quicker and tend to become chronic complainers.

Who wants to live and work with a grouch?

It’s a matter of establishing priorities. Is the financial benefit of that extra shift worth the lack of time spent with your family?

(During the time of our economic crash, I was guilty of working every extra shift I could get. While the extra money was great, I was totally unaware, until my husband finally communicated with me, that my extra time and focus spent at work made him feel lonely, and unappreciated! Wake up call!)

So, where does that leave us in regards to needing extra income or wanting to help our co-workers when staffing is short?

  • Don’t give in to working that extra shift if you’ve been short on sleep or have already had a very busy, exhausting week.
  • Make sure working the extra hours doesn’t jeopardize your family
  • Don’t forget about taxes-that extra income will be reported to Uncle Sam! Been there, done that!
  • Remember, trimming expenses first is always an option

Think about the safety of the patients you care for, the strain on your family, and the added stress on yourself and choose your extra hours wisely! When it comes to making mistakes, administration may forget they begged you to take that extra shift.

The risks could very easily cost you your license or family!

Reader Questions:

Have you ever worked when you knew you weren’t safe?

Have you ever been pressured into working shifts, and then wound up regretting it because you knew you were not at your best?


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emergiblog, Emergiblog. Emergiblog said: Guest post up at Emergiblog: Working Overtime – Are the Benefits Worth the Risks? […]

  • RehabRN

    November 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Great post!

    I purposely avoid OT (since my institution hasn’t mandated it) because of the very reasons mentioned.

    I have worked with these grouches, who really are putting patient safety behind their own bills.

    While we get many opportunities for financial education where I work, people do not get it. They refuse to get it, and also, your coworkers suffer too, when they have to pick up your slack because you’re not doing your job with adequate sleep, etc.

    I value my license, my patients and my family, and I know when to say when too much work is too much.

  • […] A guest post by Julie RN, our staff writer at Emergiblog-about the risks of too much overtime for nurses! […]

  • Julie

    November 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Thank you for your comment!

    I realized through my own experience of pulling many extra shifts that it does have a negative effect on you. You may not realize it at the time, but you do not funciton up to par when working extra shifts and short on sleep.

    I believe that we have to look at the entire picture and ask ourselves whether we truly benefit from the extra money. I do not begrudge anyone working an occasional extra shift…I do it myself. But working extra shifts on a regular basis CAN BE extremely risky!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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