According to a memo handed out by the University Medical Center (UMC) of Southern Nevada on March 7, all nurses are required to perform mandatory overtime and additional hours beginning March 16.
This comes after the hospital system’s crisis incentive pay was terminated on February 22. It basically implies that the nurses will be working the same number of hours, if not more, for less money.
“In response to the discontinuation of the crisis incentive pay, actions demonstrated by some of our nursing department members surprised and saddened me,” read part of the memo, which was issued by Debra Fox, UMC’s chief nursing officer.
The phrasing of the message seemed to imply that the nurses were to fault for the required extra work. According to the document, UMC stopped offering crisis incentive pay for three reasons.
“First, there was no longer a need to continue this expense when our dynamic staffing needs could have been managed using voluntary standby and extra shifts/overtime shifts,” said Fox in the memo.
It further said that every other hospital in the vicinity has halted comparable crisis pay and concluded by stating that the incentive “was no longer being valued as a short-term way of recognizing those going above and beyond, but rather as an expectation of entitlement.”
Many nurses were offended by the memo’s phrasing, which made them feel blamed.
Nearly a thousand comments were posted on popular online forums such as “r/nursing” on the website Reddit denouncing the letter.
On TikTok and Instagram, the popular account “the.nurse.erica” accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on videos detailing and mocking the message.
Erica, a nurse, worked at UMC for nine years. She stated that she is still in the profession and views herself as a nursing advocate on social media. When the memo was distributed, half of the nurses at UMC, according to Nurse Erica, received it.
The union that represents 1400 nurses and certified nursing assistants at UMC is Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Nevada Local 1107.
Liz Bolhouse is UMC’s SEIU lead nurse steward.
She stated that the union met with UMC management on Thursday morning to discuss the nurses’ concerns and many grievances filed in response to the letter.
According to Bolhouse, the concerns addressed three issues.
Nurse contracts need a two-week notice to change shifts so that they may, for example, secure daycare.
Before legislating overtime, there was no posting for voluntary overtime.
Finally, no provision was made for a reasonable evaluation of employee petitions to be excused from required overtime or sections of mandatory overtime.
Bolhouse stated that both parties have genuine concerns and that they plan to meet again next week.
The necessary overtime was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 16.
According to the Nurse Journal, Nevada has the country’s second-largest nursing shortage, with 9.22 nurses per 1,000 Nevadans.
It’s worth noting that this data predates COVID-19.
With a nurse staffing shortage currently in place, initiatives like the ones being implemented by UMC might worsen the situation.
Nightingale College’s chief opportunity and access officer, Jonathan Tanner, said he knows where the hospital and nurses are coming from in this circumstance.
Tanner, on the other hand, stated that he is aware that nurses are fatigued and have lives outside of work.
He referred to it as a “no-win situation.”
Tanner, on the other hand, believes that programs like the ones offered by Nightingale College might help to solve the issue of nurse shortages.
He claims that by teaching nurses online, among other things, they are able to attract staff from both urban regions like Las Vegas and rural locations throughout Nevada.
He recognizes that it is a difficult profession to enter at the moment, especially in light of memoranda like UMC’s, but he is optimistic that he will continue to bring in and graduate hundreds of skilled nurses into Nevada.
Tanner recognizes that solutions to nursing staffing shortages, such as Nightingale College, are long-term.
Decisions like UMCs may occur again until those nurses infiltrate the field, and nursing numbers may continue to fall short for the foreseeable being.