The Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU) want the province’s nurses excluded from the Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act (PSCDA). This is the act introduced by the NDP that requires publication of names and incomes of all public sector employees earning more than $100,000 a year.
The NSNU claims that some of their members are being shamed for earning more than $100,000. The NSNU’s position is that the Act should only apply to base salaries and that since nurses earning more than $100,000 cross the threshold because of the overtime should be exempted.
It’s an understandable position and outrageous that people would attempt to shame a nurse for the hours he or she works. That said, I disagree with the NSNU’s position. The numbers revealed under the Act are a way to quantify problems within health care. To cross that reporting threshold a nurse has to work a minimum of $16,000 worth of overtime. That’s almost a fifth of their working life devoted to overtime. Some nurses have told me they have colleagues who are working several extra shifts a week on a constant basis. Last year one nurse earned almost $100,000 in overtime!
Nurses aren’t working that much out of greed. They’re working because of need. The amount of overtime illustrates the nursing crises in this province. We have too few nurses and we take too long bring new ones into the profession. On top of this we have poor management, which either fails to properly schedule or recruit staff. One nurse told me her hospital consistently leaves positions unfilled. Her management play some sort of numbers game, pretending to be more efficient than they are.
Looking at the overtime burden on nurses helps the public understand why there is such high burn out in the profession, why so many opt for early retirement and the level of injury among nurses. They’re straining themselves too much.
The other aspect to showing the amount of overtime some nurses work goes to patient safety. Nursing is a stressful career. As passionate for it as the bulk of nurses are, when people are regularly working 20-, 40- or more overtime hours a week there is greater potential for mistakes in care. Patients and patient families have a right to know if the professional attending to them or their loved one is fatigued beyond comprehension.
This site has traditionally published links to the compensation reports and will continue to do so. These are compensation reports. Overtime is still compensation. Just as executive perks, like bonuses, travel allowances, per diems, car allowances, contract buy-outs are part of the compensation package.
If the nurses earning six figures are exempted from reporting, then others will also expect to have their bonuses and allowances exempted from reporting because those are in addition to base salary. The cynical among us can see executives hiding from public scrutiny by accepting lower pay – less than $99,999 a year – and negotiating for bonuses and other rewards that take them far into the six-figure bracket, but off the list. Going back in the compensation closet opens the system up for abuse – not by nurses – but others. Nothing will change for the better if we go backward.
It is public money and it is the public’s right to know.
My previous arguments and concerns for what the nursing numbers tell us starts at the 12th paragraph:
And midway here:
And near the end of this: