A convoluted and annoying example of how corporate healthcare treats nurses

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BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsI am pretty angry at the moment, feeling very disrespected and exhausted.  I worked last night til about midnight.  A very difficult shift on a locked dementia unit where I am on the ‘casual workforce’.  I had begun work at 1;45 pm and got home around 12;15 am and probably got to sleep around 2:30 am.

Normally my shift would start at 2;45 pm, but I had to go to a mandatory inservice at 1;45.  A few weeks ago I received a letter notifying me that I was scheduled for the inservice, (they don’t ask, they just tell).  I was told to report to the education room and NOT to punch in.   Anyways, I scheduled it in my datebook.  Then yesterday I received a call from someone in Human Resources telling me that I should punch in for the inservice and then after the inservice I should punch out, and then after I punch out, I should punch in for my shift.  (I was mildly irritated about this, but whatever….)

I went to the inservice, most of which was about coding for levels of assistance patients get and basically like everything else it seems, is about maximizing revenue.  Then I punched out and the time clock “accepted” my punch.  Then I punched in, and got the “accepted” message again. Then I went to my unit to begin work.  It is a very stressful unit and a very stressful shift.  I left about midnight and punched out.  (Punching out is interesting but not pertinent to this story).

Five hours later…. I was woken up at 7;45 am to clarify a time-clock issue.  I was told that I 120px-Wake_UPmissed a punch and that I was supposed to wait a minute from the time I punched out for the inservice and punched in for my shift and that I would have to make a trip back in to the facility to sign paperwork about missing a punch. “If you don’t, you won’t get paid,” I was warned.

That’s all I know.  I apologized for my very angry tone, “Don’t worry about it, I’m just the messenger” the caller said.  I asked who I needed to talk to as I would not make a special trip in for that purpose.  I was transferred to the director of nurses and left a voicemail.  I don’t know whether or when I’ll get paid.  I’ll be tired all day.  That’s ok, it is a beautiful day and I’ll recover by tomorrow.

But you know, the work we do is hard enough.  I want to be supported in and respected for the work.  I want all healthcare professionals and support staff to be.  We deserve to be.  Not this. Not this.

I remember Lily Tomlin’s famous line as Ernestine, “We don’t care, we don’t have to.  We’re the phone company!”


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6 Responses to A convoluted and annoying example of how corporate healthcare treats nurses

  1. Ruth Ronaldo says:

    Hey Beth,
    Thanks for writing & posting this article re’ your experience with the time clock… Here’s hoping you’ve got some sleep by now~ I heard a similar story the other day, frustrating, and yet it’s a shared experience, that’s been happening for years with workers in healthcare facilities.

    Didn’t Lily also say “We are all in this together, by ourselves”…
    Nice you didn’t RTW and punch the clock or the supervisor.
    one by one, small changes, over time,

    Ruth Roy, Rn… (bio 401, Ex Hosp, RVNA/H, Lib-M, kirkwood ass-living, ->music studio… 🙂

    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Hi Ruth,
      Thanks for your fun and supportive comment. Not sure if Lily said that or not, but I love the quote. Makes me laugh but only b/c it is so true!!! Doesn’t say much for collaboration though! 🙂
      I did not go Monday as I was told to if I wanted to be paid. And they did pay me. BUT when I did go in for my scheduled shift the following Wednesday they made me sign a form that said I “missed a punch”. I tried to argue, but the scheduler kept thrusting the clipboard at me saying, “you missed a punch, you missed a punch”. OMG!!! I signed the form and rolled my eyes. A passive aggressive response, but what were my options? My attempt at assertiveness failed. Punching him was tempting, but not my style, passivity doesn’t work for me either.
      Turns out there was a technical glitch in the punch process as a colleague told me that you had to wait a minute from punching out to punching in. That was the problem and a great albeit absurd example of how a blaming culture keeps real problems hidden and staff frustrated. And we don’t even need to mention how it would feel to stand and wait for the timeclock and then be rushing around all shift! OY!
      Anyways, I sure appreciate your feedback.
      Take care,

  2. Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

    Thanks, Jim. Good point about the Fair Labor Standards Act and I am glad to know about it. The policy does feel controlling and punitive whereas you offer a simple common sense solution that demonstrates respect and a willingness to help.

    Both you and Dan highlight disconnects between well meaning and well intentioned plans and people and problems that surface. All the more reason to build cultures of respect and creating opportunities to learn each others’ back stories seems like a helpful part of the process.

  3. Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

    Comment from Jim Murphy with permission:
    “If you don’t, you won’t get paid” violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees have to be paid whether they comply with the time and attendance system or not. Employers can if they wish take disciplinary action if employees violate the time and attendance policy but they cannot use such a violation as a reason to dock the employee.

    In this case, it hardly seems that any kind of adverse action would be justifiable, since there no was no willful violation. Nor does the policy appear to make any sense. If there is some technical reason why one has to wait one minute between punches, that should be made clear in the system. To insist that an employee make a special trip just to sign is absurd; the common sense solution would be that the supervisor sign off on the missing punch.

    Organizations do indeed make rules for valid purposes that turn out to be deficient or obstructive. The intention can be well meaning but the adverse consequences not anticipated, or it can be rules are made simply so that some people can exert their power to make rules. In a previous post it has been suggested that “no stupid rules” is a characteristic of the idea organization.

    Here, one has to ask what is the point of the policy? Cases like this also show why union protection can be valuable.

  4. Hi Beth,

    I read with interest your recent post concerning the frustration you faced punching in and out for a recent work shift. I can certainly understand your reactions given the circumstances. My comment is directed only toward the anger you experienced in the moment and how that was the last thing you needed at that particular time of day. The problem of course was the expenditure of further emotional reserve at a time when it was already at low ebb. You’re well aware of the back story angry or confused patients always have, even if we don’t know exactly what it is. It’s that story that helps to explain their behavior and make it easier for us to see it in a different light. Similarly, administrative situations have back stories as well. Ironically, I’d suggest, a well-meaning administrator created the policy or protocol you ran up against with an intent to actually make it convenient for health care workers to punch in and out and get credit for the hours they worked. You uncovered a need to improve that process to make it work better for other colleagues. We must be prepared to encounter these types of administrative situations and angry or confused people every time we leave the house. If we can carry a “tool” in our “tool box,” to pull out and use when it inevitably happens, we can avoid further depletion of our emotional reserve. Although much easier said than done, being prepared for these situations and encounters before they occur is key. Thanks for sharing your story! Mary Koloroutis circulated it within the CHCM consultant group and it allowed me to explore your excellent website a bit. I learned many interesting things and am happy to now know who you are and what you do.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.


    • Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your time, insights, and sharing at CHCM. As a consultant I agree wholeheartedly. Too often these back stories get lost or never surface at all. A sad reflection of workplace culture, time, communication skills and individual interest. I would be very interested in publishing blogposts that help illuminate well intentioned actions by administrators or others. Our stories help us to understand and respect each other.
      In a healthy culture, finding a problem in a system as you suggest I did becomes a learning experience which is exactly what we need in healthcare. I’m also interested in publishing more about tools that can be used to help address challenges. Please let me know if you have ideas via beth@bethboynton.com.

      As a Per Diem RN, I am very tired of these kinds of issues. I wonder why someone who knew I worked until midnight (that punch was recorded) would call so early, why the assumption was that I did something wrong, and why I would be threatened with not being paid if I didn’t make a special trip in. I still have not been called back by the way and remember a year ago or so had to wait 3 weeks for a payroll issue to be resolved. No call backs then either.

      As a consultant and RN, I believe that doctors, nurses, and direct care providers need to be treated with respect and support and that this is key for providing safe care and optimal patient experience. Actually, everyone needs to be treated with respect and conversations like this will help! Thanks again. Beth

What are your thoughts?