“I began my career in nuclear medicine in the late seventies. I started working at the University of Washington in 1982 and worked there until I retired in 2017. Throughout my career, I held several positions — sometimes in management, in which I was not paid for overtime work, and other times in non-managerial work, in which I was paid for overtime. I also took on a steward role with the union and worked with the HR department. With 40 years in the field, I’ve seen many changes, and I wish I could say I was proud of all of them.
There are some changes that I am proud of. Early in my career, I worked very hard to improve the system. While working at UW Medical Center and with Harborview Medical Center, I noticed discrepancies between job descriptions and pay levels. I pointed these out to the HR department, and they assigned me to create new technologist and supervisory positions. I worked hard to get those positions approved and people paid for the kind of work they were doing. I fought policies that attempted to deny people just compensation. I also worked to ensure they were paid for overtime, which was not an easy task.
I had to create a special position for supervisors in order to guarantee overtime pay: they had supervisory duties and worked with patients. This position also helped to enhance communication between supervisors and clinical staff. Now, though, that position has been taken away by HR. Supervisors don’t have the ability to work with patients or receive overtime pay, which negatively impacts them and entire departments.
HR has made other changes to job descriptions. For the tech jobs — ultrasound techs, radiology, echocardiogram, for example — they’ve added more responsibility and required higher level skills, while paying people the same salary. This doesn’t take into consideration the scope of difficulty the staff takes on, which has led to two issues: an inability to attract and retain the highest level of staff and an inability to maintain a reasonable level of morale among staff. Though these employees are paid for overtime, I’ve seen managers reschedule and alter shifts to avoid scheduling overtime. Supervisors, who don’t get paid for overtime, provide patient care work when departments are short staffed. HR tries to work around federal legislation by manipulating pay periods.
When I started working in nuclear medicine, one of the things that kept me going was that I believed I could make the system better. I could work on ways to get better pay for myself and the people who worked with me.
My son, who manages a trucking fleet, has a much different experience. He doesn’t have that optimism that he can grow in a position where he’s at. His first year he earned $65K, the next year he was promoted to a management position, but he earned $55K and worked more overtime than he’s not paid for. That has continued into his third year. He co-parents two young kids with his ex-wife, so working 50-60 hours a week makes it really difficult to have adequate relationships with them. He can’t spend quality time with his kids — he doesn’t get home until close to their bedtime, so he can’t share an evening meal with them and keep up with what’s going on in their lives. If he were paid for working overtime, he’d have more money to do things with his kids, he could afford to have his daughter in band, and he might not have to find another place to live because his rent is too expensive.
His situation is much harder than mine when I was raising my family and working. I worked a lot of hours, but I didn’t have the kind of primary needs that he does and many of the workers who followed me at the University do. Looking at his situation versus mine, there were struggles, but I was always optimistic. I had support systems — the state had some regulations about employment that I could negotiate with HR about salary and positions. I had the tools to get a higher salary in order to live.That’s not always the case with him. His prospects for being paid a fair salary, buying a house, and being within a reasonable distance to his work and kids are, well, he’s just not optimistic about those possibilities. It’s reasonable for him to not be optimistic because the government is not stepping in to do more. This needs to change. “
— Ray, Nuclear Medicine Technologist