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Strike Breaker?

Should nurses cover for the housekeeping and food service staff when they go on strike?

Our hospital is facing a possible strike by the service workers. In the event of a strike, the hospital is requiring the nursing staff to fill in for the services workers. That means that I am required to sign up for extra shifts (12 hours extra per week) in order to cover such duties as answering phones and housekeeping.

I think this is a bad policy for so many reasons.

First of all, it’s mandatory overtime.

Second of all, I have worked hard to become a nurse. I consider myself to be a professional. Do other professionals have to cover service workers when they strike? Respiratory therapists? Pharmacists? Physical therapists? Doctors? No, the responsibility falls exclusively on the nursing staff.

Third of all, it implies that I am taking the hospital’s side in the case of a strike. I don’t even consider myself to be pro-union, but still it seems wrong for me to have break someone else’s strike if I do not choose to do so.

Last of all, I do not want to put my health in jeopardy by having to clean hospital rooms for 12 hours. Not to sound like a wimp, but I get lower back pain just from cleaning my own bathroom. Plus there’s the minor detail of being 35 years old and 5 months pregnant.

And then there’s the question of safety – I haven’t been trained on the proper cleaning of a hospital room. This is pretty dangerous when you consider that the majority of our patients are MRSA and VRE positive.

I almost let this matter go. I had been told that the strike is unlikely to happen. But when it came time to put my schedule in, I was required to schedule 12 hours per week of overtime for the entire month of December. I thought this was rather excessive, so I started to do some research. I found the ANA’s position statement on mandatory overtime. It defines mandatory overtime as “the hours worked in excess of an agreed upon, predetermined, regularly scheduled full-time or part-time work schedule”. Therefore I have declined to schedule myself for the extra shifts, because I believe that would imply that I have agreed to work them. Tomorrow I’ll meet with my nurse manager and human resources to discuss the matter further. I’d like to see the official policy in writing, and how it was expressed to me at the time I was hired.

The strange thing is that aside from one or two of my colleagues, the nursing staff seems to be very complacent about this policy. It doesn’t seem to bother them in the least.

Of course it would be simple for me to express my dissatisfaction by finding another job. There are plenty of other hospitals in my area. The only problem is that I am halfway through my pregnancy and cannot afford to put any of my benefits in jeopardy.

So what do you all think about this? I would love to hear your feedback.