Monday, July 23, 2012

Overtime or Overworked?

  Sorry for the layoff folks but that whole "Real Nurse" thing got in the way of...well everything this week.  This week I worked SIX shifts straight, because I can't say no when the staffing office calls  looking for someone to come in extra. Don't get me wrong here, I'm happy I made a load of overtime this week, but I am exhausted, which leads me kinda to the point here. When does overtime just become overworked?

  Let's be honest, being fresh out of school I still have very vivid memories of what it is like to not know how you are going to make ends meet. So kinda like a stray cat that eats whatever you put in front of it, I will take any chance to pad my bank account. Whether it means floating to any floor in the hospital to avoid being called off due to low census, working holidays without a complaint, or picking up pretty much any overtime shift that is offered to me, regardless of how insane it is. I'm sure plenty of new nurses reading this know exactly what I mean and plenty of you nursing student who are set to hit the workplace soon are planning to do this too, the money is good and it's there for the taking if you are willing to do it, but should you?

  There are always pros and cons to everything you do, and now that I have done what I really thought was impossible I can sit back and go over in my head how smart or stupid this little exercise of my endurance and love of a fat paycheck really is. 

  Having done it once now I'm not sure I'll do it again and I am not sure how much I recommend it to any nurse. To be quite honest my whole body hurts and I think I have totally undone the work the massage therapist did on my back last Saturday. My sleep schedule is now seriously messed up having gotten used to sleeping in the AM and being awake in the PM , that it's going to be tough to revert back to being a "normal" person on my days off. 

  More concerning is the how my ability to handle stress went slowly down hill the further into the week I got. No matter how you slice it, working 12 hours a day is rough. Now when you are into your 48th hour in 4 days you may find that it has some toll on your emotional endurance. Yes, I was a little crabsy this week, and was that really fair to my patients? I'm not sure, I guess one could argue that with the way things were going, having a nurse was better than the outlook had been at the beginning of the night. At the same time I may have been a better nurse if I hadn't been on day 5 of 6. Also, my concentration was not great by day 5, when I began to notice I got super cautious with everything I did, double and triple checking meds to be certain that I wasn't making an error. Sure I get a gold start for being careful, but it really slowed down my productivity and was a little nerve wracking at times.

   On the flip side, there ARE upsides to picking up some overtime besides the big paycheck. I have made friends for life with he staffing folks for saving their butts and my co-workers all think I wear a halo for giving up a couple days off to help them out. My boss, our director, thanked me for being such a great team player and probably has a touch more respect for me now. For a new nurse it's really important for me to establish to the higher ups that I am a team player, I have a connection to my unit and show them that I am willing to work, I think I established all these goals this week.

  So, was it worth losing a week of my life? Yes. Would I recommend you do it? I can't speak to that in a yes or no way. Instead this is what I suggest, nursing is about total honesty. Be totally honest with yourself. Take some self inventory and ask yourself if you REALLY can handle that extra shift. Don't think about it in dollar terms, just be honest about your limits and if you have even an inkling of a doubt in your mind don't do it.  If you are worried about feeling guilty or caving to pressure, don't answer your phone and talk to your staffing person, let them leave a message, they always do. Then take a moment to take a personal inventory and decide for yourself if you can handle it, only you can figure that one out. Remember, another opportunity will always pop up down the road to pick up a shift, just because you don't feel like you handle one in the here and now doesn't mean you won't be able later, another day, another time.

  In the end I am glad I did it. I learned that I can handle way more than I thought I could, but I also learned a few things about my own personal limitations. I also learned that limitations are not a bad thing, or even written in stone, but just like road signs, they are something that you really need to pay attention to.


  1. I'll bet those fatty pay days are pretty nice BUT... Me being a nursing student, after one long, completely involved clinical on the med/surg floor & I'm ready to sleep the night away!!
    You are giving me some hope, though!!

  2. Get some rest and at least buy yourself something really sinful with some of the extra cash!

  3. I agree, often I have done extra or double and in the end I am really not very productive in the end. It is so important to know your own limits too! Hopefully you got some nice days off to make up for it! :)

  4. Update: been down for 2 days with a nasty cold. Apparently running yourself ragged by working extra also wears on your immunity. Lesson learned =P


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