Nurses Worry If They Can Clock “Hazard Pay” For OT During Covid-19 Shifts

Recently, SIA, Silkair & Scoot cabin crew who joined hospitals to assist with non-medical service were praised for their “professionalism” by a senior nurse manager & nurse educator in National University Health System’s Facebook post on Wednesday (6 May).

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The comments were covered in our post here.

However, some members of the nursing community have reached out to spotlight the gruelling nature of their job, and asserted that it was unhealthy to draw comparisons between cabin crew and healthcare workers.

Those who shared their stories with us serve patients across local hospitals in Singapore, all 5 of which have requested to remain anonymous.

We’ve collated their thoughts below to amplify the voices of our nurses who have been toiling tirelessly to keep us safe since the pandemic began.

Physical & verbal abuse is common, but taken in their stride

A local nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, shared that some patients are less than kind when encountering them during regular shifts.

Physical and verbal abuse from difficult patients are part of a larger issue as patient-to-caregiver ratios are often stretched to the limits.

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This results in ample recognition rarely being given to the long hours of dedicated care they strive to give to each individual patient — even prior to Covid-19’s outbreak.

Shifts can sometimes get so overwhelming that short meal or toilet breaks are used instead to clear work before “hectic handovers”.

Trained to apologise & move on

However, no matter how hard a shift gets, nurses are generally trained to accept the “demands of the job”, “apologise” and “move on”. For healthcare workers deployed to infections wards or the ICU, working in a PPE suit is also a requirement.

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Long hours spent in the suit are described by our interviewees to be tiring at best, and “suffocating” at worst.

But all frontline workers we talked to shared that they understood the significance of their sacrifices, to help keep themselves and other patients safe — and in a broader sense, keeping our society healthy & Covid-19-free.

Shunned or rejected on public transport

Besides hectic shifts & long working hours, members of the nursing community shared that some of their colleagues faced resistance and/or rejection while transiting on public transport — being shunned or avoided while in their uniforms after work.

Some may wonder if they would be fairly compensated for their efforts, as long hours of clocking OT is an everyday occurrence — as shared by a retired nurse we interviewed.

‘Hazard pay’ is unconfirmed at the moment

The most pressing concern highlighted to us, however, was if they would receive “hazard pay”, as some hospitals have yet to confirm if staff will receive due compensation for their months of extra work clocked.

We’ve reached out to major hospitals in Singapore to clarify on their policies for this. We’ll update the post with their response.

A small snippet of a nurse’s everyday life

Based on Ministry of Health manpower figures, there are 42,777 public & non-public registered nurses/midwives in Singapore.

That’s 1 nurse to care for 133 potential patients in Singapore, based on our total population.

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A reality which translates to regular wards in hospital — 1 frontline healthcare worker tending to the needs of over 12-60 patients while balancing medications, discharges & admissions.

But that’s all in a day’s work for our nurses who shared that they don’t seek “praise or recognition”.

Most agreed that they just hoped to see their hardwork fairly compensated, for citizens to stay home & little more empathy from the general public.

Capacity to care beyond human measure

That said, you may be wondering what drives our nurses to soldier on despite these tough times?

We’ll close with an anecdote from a nurse who described the highlight of her day when she’s finishing her rounds. The sight of her patients fast asleep in their beds, with peaceful smiles on their faces after a long & eventful shift.

That’s what fuels the commitment she makes everyday to stay strong amidst the Covid-19 health crisis for her patients.

This incredible capacity to care beyond human measure is what keeps our society going and what we should all strive for.

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Featured image adapted from Unsplash. All images featured are for illustration purposes only. Identities have been withheld upon request.