Nurse overtime a hot button issue

LA nurse Nellie Larot made headlines this weekend when the LA Times reported that she earned $177,512 in overtime last year.  Larot, a prison nurse, earned more than the head of the entire state prison system.

Larot’s windfall has generated a lot of controversy, partly because her extra income was a direct result of the California state furlough plan, which was designed to save taxpayers’ money.  However, Larot and other nurses warn that the plan didn’t take into account the fact that healthcare facilities require 24/7 staffing.  If one employee is on furlough, another will be required to cover her position.

Elsewhere, nurses are suing employers for unpaid overtime, alleging that patient needs often require nurses to work through unpaid meal breaks.  Angela Valcho, formerly a NICU nurse at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dalls, recently lost such a lawsuit.

But Julie Kebler, a Seattle-based labor and employment lawyer, warns that the healthcare industry is ripe for such lawsuits, due to the nature of patient care.

What do you think?  Are nurses paid fairly?  Should nurses receive overtime for all hours worked beyond their regular schedule?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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2 Responses to Nurse overtime a hot button issue

  1. Shannon Sheffield

    First of all is she still alive? If so then I’m glad she made it after working all of those extra hours! At first, it sounds great, but then it does make you question a few things such as quality of patient care and her own well being at the same time. Overtime is exhausting at any rate, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for this particular nurse. Wow!

  2. Shawnee LPN

    There’s a current debate about this where I work (family practice). We were just bought out by a large cooperation and they DO NOT allow overtime. Though most of our nursing staff get <5 hours overtime per week, they are cracking down on that. I don't mind working my forty and going home, but I do have a problem with leaving prescriptions undone, patients not called, and authorizations yet to do. I understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, our job is to take care of patients, not leave them hanging till the next business day.