Mandatory extra time: nurses are prisoners at the hospital

Hundreds of nurses denounce the mandatory overtime that keeps them “hostage” in the hospital and pushing many young professionals to want to leave the profession.

“We are afraid of being sequestrated every time we step into the hospital. It’s not supposed to be a prison! “

This testimony is taken from the “black book”, a notebook in which 500 nurses from Lanaudière denounce the mandatory extra time (TSO) and of which Le Journal obtained an exclusive copy.

First observation: nurses live the daily stress of OST, and many consider themselves “prisoners” of the hospital or CHSLD where they work. Testimonies of despair and disgust follow each other.

In January, the Interprofessional Federation of Health (FIQ) in Lanaudière asked nurses to testify about the impacts of OST on their professional and personal lives.


“The girls are in” boutte “, admits Stéphane Cormier, president of the local union. They cry because they do not want to stay, we threaten them. […] It’s organizational violence. “

According to the FIQ, 90% of healthcare professionals are women, and 50% are single parents.

Mr. Cormier compares OST to the agony of gout. Throughout her shift, the nurse wonders if she will be able to leave. Often, it is announced before her departure that she must work another eight hours. She must quickly find someone to take care of children or cancel personal projects.

Note that the nurse can not leave her position if there is no one to replace her, and remains legally responsible for her patients.

To denounce the situation, the 76,000 nurses and nursing auxiliaries of the FIQ announced that they would refuse to do OST today, everywhere in Quebec.

“It takes an electric shock,” says Nancy Bédard, President of the FIQ.

Clear commitments

In response, the Labor Administrative Court on Friday ordered nurses to accept any request for OST in urgent and exceptional situations.

“For us, it’s a victory. […] An urgent and exceptional situation is not known in advance, “reacts Ms. Bédard, who ensures that professional judgment will be required today.

The FIQ is calling for a clear action plan by the Minister of Health, who pledged to end the election campaign.

According to the FIQ, the TSO settled in the early 2000s, but has become a chronic “management mode” for 10 years. For example, the nursing shortage is difficult to quantify because of a human resource management problem, says Bédard.

“If nothing happens, there will be other events,” promises Ms. Bédard. We will not stop until they understand. “



The Journal reviewed the 500 testimonials of nurses, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists in Lanaudière on compulsory overtime. For fear of reprisals, they testify anonymously. Here are excerpts:

Exhausted nurses

“What does OST [mandatory overtime] bring to my life? Fatigue, irritability, stress. When I arrive at home after a TSO, it takes me at least a day before recovering! And I’m only 23 years old. “

“The TSO is inhuman. It is devastating the quality of care. “

“Thirty-five hours without sleep, it does not make the staff competent, but we know that in case of error, it will be the fault of the nurse. “

“I see in the corridors of exhausted and tearful caregivers trying to keep smiling despite this pitiful reality. “

“It’s irritating and dangerous, because when I go home by car, after an OSI, my ability is impaired and the risk of accidents for me and others is increased. “

“Do you find it humane to force someone to work 16 hours in a row and barely 8 hours before his next figure? Not 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours to return to your home, go wash, eat and sleep, then return to your post. ” 

The fear of TSO

“Every day, I go to work with the impression of having a sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Will I still stay tonight? I know when my shift starts. But I never know when it will end. “

“We are trapped in our work. This must end ! “

“If I leave, I am guilty. IF I stay, I’m dangerous. […] I am only a puppet who fills a hole in a schedule. “

“In summary, the TSO rots my life. It’s an impossible pressure to endure, I wonder every day if I’m going to work because I’m already exhausted and I do not want to stay in TSO. I’m scared for my work permit, I’m scared for patients and my work colleagues. “

Threats of the boss

“We use our dedication to our patients to threaten us, we use warnings, suspensions, false promises and all kinds of ways to stay. […] I saw girls crying. “

“I was told by the scheduling clerk that she did not care about our privacy and that she had to plug holes in the schedule. But what kind of environment do I work in? “

Family life goes crazy

“We do not ask for the moon, only to go home at night. It is not normal to put mother, mother-in-law, neighbor, etc., waiting to know if can go home at night. “

“Today, I’m pregnant. No TSO for me. When I return (maternity), I will be first on the list. With a child of one year at home. “

“I am single parent and my ex threatens to ask for permanent custody because of my work because I can not always respect my shared custody schedule. I have migraines and constant stress. “

Leave the profession

“How many times do I have to tell myself that working at the corner store is more interesting to me? “

“I worked at the factory for a long time, at the minimum wage, and my working conditions were much better. “

“It’s been six months since I was a nurse and I’ve already said a good dozen times: Why did I become a nurse? Why did I make this choice? Must be sick! It’s not normal ! “



Total: + 31% over 5 years

  • 2017-2018: $ 270,216,095
  • 2016-2017: $ 222,022,590
  • 2015-2016: $ 195,420,885
  • 2014-2015: $ 203,515,426
  • 2013-2014: $ 206,515,784

Source: MSSS (Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses)

* The ministry does not compile mandatory overtime.

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