Every profession wants its workers to be always available to provide the best service possible, often ignoring their own needs in favor of duty. This practice may be particularly widespread within the nursing profession. Nurses are famously omnipresent at each level of healthcare, from pediatrics to geriatric medicine. However, working compulsory extra hours could be the driving force behind nurses providing a declining quality of care due to a deterioration of their health. Mandatory overtime may contribute significantly to disturbing trends within nurses’ employment. The effect that obligatory working hours have on staff may be considered primarily detrimental to both the employer and the employee.
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Motivating workers to work extra hours by using the appeal of increased pay and moral obligation may be one of the most common tactics among healthcare providers. The definition of overtime is working “more than the contracted hours for the position” (Luther et al., 2017, p. 2). These employer’s expectations go beyond employees’ contractual obligations and could be outlined as supplementary to the initial job position. Many facilities continue to use this method as a viable solution to a lack of qualified staff (Whittaker, Gillum, & Kelly, 2018). However, mandatory overtime may contribute significantly to disturbing trends within nurses’ employment
Inviting a Reduced Quality of Care
One of the most common results of working overtime, whether at-will or imposed from top-down, is workers’ burnout. This effect is achieved by overexposure to working conditions that necessitate full immersion, constant emotional investment, and heightened human contact, which are all elements of the nursing profession (Whittaker et al., 2018). Thus, working overtime drives staff to become dissatisfied with their working conditions and lose sight of their employment goal, treating their working shift as a begrudgingly carried out obligation. Therefore, burnout leads to a reduced quality of care, as healthcare professionals become invested less in their patients’ wellbeing and more in merely surviving their shifts (Cho et al., 2016). This finding becomes crucial, as it counters the motivation of some facilities that utilize mandatory overtime as a shortcut to heightening patient satisfaction.
The Effects of High Turnover Rates
Burnout may be the leading cause of workplace-related dissatisfaction, but it also induces various other effects. Not only does working overtime lead to staff burnout, but it also makes workers feel “less confident in their ability to reduce stress” overall (Luther et al., 2017, p. 7). If nurses have less control over their own physical and mental wellbeing, then they are more inclined to believe that they are “unable to advocate for a patient” (Whittaker et al., 2018, p. 110). This series of events create a working culture that drives nurses to leave their profession, as they lose confidence in their integrity. As such, high turnover rates may not only further employee shortages but also increase the numbers of inexperienced staff members who may not receive the management necessary for professional growth.
Some staff members may prefer to work mandatory overtime as a surefire way to increase their salary, which is particularly useful considering the levels of student debt necessary to finish medical school. However, the mechanics of overtime payment in the US often result in facilities paying more in wages than they planned to save through employing the current number of staff (Luther et al., 2017). From an employer’s point of view, this effect should be contrary to the one intended. Furthermore, the benefits nurses become eligible for when working overtime, for example, employer-paid gym memberships and various morale-boosting events, also negatively affect the facility’s budget (Whittaker et al., 2018). Therefore, losing money becomes a possible development for workplaces that had initially intended to cut their costs.
Facilities that partake in mandatory overtime often invite a reduced quality of patient care and an environment that advocates inexperience among their staff. Those employers who want to offset the adverse effects of an imbalanced work-life equilibrium among their workers could find themselves spending more than their budget may allow. Thus, the disadvantageous effects of compulsory working hours reduce the benefits that they may have for both workers and employers.
Cho, E., Lee, N. J., Kim, E. Y., Kim, S., Lee, K., Park, K. O., & Sung, Y. H. (2016). Nurse staffing level and overtime associated with patient safety, quality of care, and care left undone in hospitals: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 60, 263-271. Web.
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Luther, L., Gearhart, T., Fukui, S., Morse, G., Rollins, A. L., & Salyers, M. P. (2017). Working overtime in community mental health: Associations with clinician burnout and perceived quality of care. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 40(2), 1-15. Web.
Whittaker, B. A., Gillum, D. R., & Kelly, J. M. (2018). Burnout, moral distress, and job turnover in critical care nurses. International Journal of Studies in Nursing, 3(3), 108-121. Web.