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PT on the Run

Weekend Work

Published December 27, 2013 3:06 PM by Michael Kelley

In the days leading up to Christmas, I kept seeing commercials and ads saying that even on Christmas Day, certain stores would be open 24/7. It got me thinking, I work at a hospital that has likely been open 24/7 for about 35 years straight. Hospitals are open every weekend, every holiday, through extreme weather and every medical epidemic or natural disaster that may strike.

At my hospital, we're required to work two weekend shifts a month. Generally speaking, I don't mind the weekend work. The hospital is usually quieter and there's a more relaxed mood among the staff. Patients usually have family come visit on the weekends, so it's always kind of interesting to see that aspect of their lives.

On the flip side, weekends also mean decreased staffing levels. On a typical weekday, my hospital has seven to 10 therapists working. On a weekend, that number drops to three to five. This usually leads to long lists of patients who aren't being seen by therapy, which in turn, leads to long lists of doctors who are upset their patients aren't being seen by therapy. So the calmed mood around the hospital is usually countered by the high stress level of trying to see as many patients as humanly possible, to avoid as many awkward conversations with physicians or family members as possible.

Now of course, weekend work comes with a little extra cash. At my hospital system, we get a weekend premium of $3 extra per hour on top of our regular hourly rate. It's a nice little bump on the paychecks, but to be honest the weekends are starting to wear on me. This past weekend at my hospital was sort of a perfect storm of high census, low staffing, and particularly ornery physicians.

The other therapists and I worked tirelessly to see as many patients as we could. Yet still we spent a good amount of time fielding questions from nurses and doctors about if and when we'd be seeing their patients. The most common answer was "we're not," which only led to more frustration for all parties involved. I came home both Saturday and Sunday physically and mentally exhausted. Definitely not my ideal way of spending a weekend.

What are your thoughts on working the weekends? Does the increased accessibility for patients warrant therapists taking time out of their weekends that might be spent with their families or doing other things they enjoy? Is the extra money worth it?

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I believe all health care professionals are worked very hard in general, physical therapists included. For that reason, I decided to work in a private clinic with mandated weekend hours, and even so, I still generally work 50 hours a week. What is the burn out rate for physical therapists? It's no secret that many have chronic back injuries due to overwork. I find myself scrambling to eat well, stay active, do laundry, and keep my home clean. Why are we always in a rush? I wish I had more time on my hands, rather than the extra cash, if I had a choice in the matter.

Angela Marcotte, Pediatrics - Physical Therapist, Private Clinic January 10, 2014 11:59 AM
Hollywood FL

I think the management model has to change. Therapy needs to happen 7 days a week? OK then, staff appropriately for 7 days then. Why should there be understaffing on Saturday and Sunday? Full staff, 7 days. Doctors upset? Good! Get them to support the case for more staff. The old model of decreased staff on weekends simply doesn't work anymore. Period.

Dean Metz December 30, 2013 4:05 AM

Where is your diem pool of therapists?  Weekend work is okay. Prioritize then if there is time see the rest.  Many therapists work only 8 hour days, but in a hospital, 10-12 hours days for a therapist is not uncommon. How many did you work?  If you worked more hours would your patients get seen?  

Think of it this way when your patients do not get seen, you are neglecting their care the MD ordered.  Read the laws regarding this and rethink your case about why you have neglected care to your patients.  I suspect a complaint to your state board will have you seeing every single patient on your case load every weekend unless there is a more pressing medical issue with the patient.

If it is a staffing issue refer all complaints to the director who will then need to schedule appropriately.  Give your directors number to the nurses and MD's so they can call directly and make the complaint more personal.  

Karen B December 27, 2013 11:49 PM

Didn't sound like he was complaining, at most he was venting, but more to the sound of asking a question...a poll so to speak...  Just for you Mr. Miller, I think he should have written, "No one  is pointing a gun in your head, If you don't like this article, don't read it...find a new blog..."

I used to do weekend works as well, usually was very easy. Seldom was it "toxic".  It if ever was, I always just thought of it as "payment" for the easy ones I got before.  Never did work Sat and Sun.  Would rather not work weekends.

Jon, PT December 27, 2013 8:00 PM

You're being compensated for it. If you

don't like it, don't write an article....get a new job

Steve Miller December 27, 2013 5:02 PM

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