Healthcare has an overtime problem, workers say

Hospital and health system workers put in long hours during the COVID-19 pandemic as the nation faced a public health crisis. Now, in the post-pandemic era, workers in healthcare and across industries say they are being burned out after being asked to work increasing overtime to offset staffing shortages, NBC News reported Nov. 12. 

Staffing shortages are nothing new to healthcare, with workers leaving their jobs or the industry altogether for various reasons in recent years. An estimated 145,213 healthcare providers left the workforce from 2021 through 2022, according to an Oct. 16 report from Definitive Healthcare. This included an estimated 71,309 physicians, 34,834 nurse practitioners, 13,714 physician assistants, 15,332 physical therapists and 10,024 licensed clinical social workers. 

More recently, there have been some bright spots in healthcare employment. The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Nov. 3, showed that in October, employment continued to trend up in ambulatory healthcare services, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities. 

Still, overall, the number of job openings across industries nationwide changed little at 9.6 million on the last business day of September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Nov. 1. The number of hires also changed little in September at 5.9 million.

Workers in healthcare, public safety and transportation professions told NBC News these and other workforce trends have led to higher demand being placed on them.

Nicholas Whitehead, an operating room nurse at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, Kan., told NBC News he is typically called back into work twice monthly due to short staffing for the overnight shift to cover procedures that took longer than anticipated or were delayed.

Ascension said in a statement shared with NBC News that its operating room staff work an on-call rotation, which is considered part of job duties, and intended to respond to after-hours "emergent and other unscheduled surgical cases." Nursing staff across its hospital system work 10% to 15% of the time they are scheduled for on-call rotation, the statement said.

Some states have taken up the overtime issue this year. Connecticut recently expanded overtime protections for nurses. In New York, healthcare employers may no longer require nurses to work beyond their regularly scheduled hours, with some exceptions, under a new law that took effect in July. 

Still, Jen Burke, a nurse at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., told NBC News she and her colleagues in the cardiac catheterization lab routinely have their 12-hour shifts extended due to lack of staff or beds in other hospital areas. 

The hospital said in a statement shared with the news division that it tries to minimize how often nurses work beyond their shifts and "is committed to adhering to all applicable labor laws and regulations, including those pertaining to overtime."

Read the full NBC News report here.

 

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