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?

10:56 am

Change of Shift: Volume 5, No. 10

Welcome to the latest edition of Change of Shift!

Good stuff this week, so let’s get to it!


A warm Change of Shift welcome to Erin, a school nurse who blogs at Tales of a School Zoned Nurse. Every single one of Erin’s posts would make a wonderful addition to CoS, but I was taken by One.

How much of yourself should you share with your patients? NPs Save Lives presents Professional Boundaries Between Patients and NPs posted at

At Off the Charts,? AJN Clinical Editor Christine Moffa describes a great resource (CE available) on how to work with dysphagia dietary restrictions in A Tough Act to Swallow.


Rob Fraser has a great idea for boosting productivity in Nursing Ideas’ Blog | How Nursing Students can Study Better posted at Nursing Ideas.

I’m Not Furniture…I’m Glue is the latest Insights in Nursing podcast! This one includes Terri Polick, Cora Vizcarra, Lorry Schoenly and myself, hosted by the ever popular Jamie Davis!

Amy at Nursing Influence blogs about a controversial issue spurred by an article in the American Journal of Nursing. Namely, does a patient have a Right to Choose Healthcare Providers Based on Race?


Nurse Me gets all up in the face of Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. Get ready to have your adrenaline rush for the day – you may need a hefty dose of lisinopril after you’re done! You GO, girl!

Ah, it’s all about aesthetics, as in Poop Brown Walls and a Muddy Colored Floor as described at Madness: Tales of an Emergency Room Nurse.

Over at The Doctor Stole My Stethoscope, RNRaquel is nearby when Dr. Handsome Throws a Fit. Seriously, it’s amazing we still witness these infantile outbursts and equally amazing that the doctors still get away with it.


Elaine is feeling the first hints of burn-out in Thoughts on Losing Enthusiasm at Miss-Elaine-ious, RN. Oh, I have so been there! You will get the enthusiasm back.

Wireless world – that’s what Not Nurse Ratched is seeing in Texting Toddlers, Tweeting Nonagenarians.

Call lights can be a real pain in the neck, as Tex at Weird Nursing Tales discovered in Snort, Snort. He’s right, you can’t make this stuff up!


Many thanks to those who submitted (and those who just realized they did! : D) and many thanks for reading.

Change of Shift will be taking a Thanksgiving Holiday – and will return to Emergiblog on December 9th.


You can submit your posts anytime via Blog Carnival or the contact button at the top of this page!

Keep posting!

November 9, 2010, 9:47 am

Grand Rounds at Emergiblog: 11/16

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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