SEOUL, March 21 (Korea Bizwire) — Stressed out and understaffed, all the while burdened under corrupted mentoring practices that are more closely identified with bullying than teaching, South Korean nurses are working to treat patients under poor conditions.
In a past survey of 11,662 nurses and workers in the healthcare industry carried out by the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union, 31.1 percent of nurses that partook in the survey reported having no time allotted whatsoever to take meals, while 54.4 percent said they were not given breaks to rest.
Working environments were also coercive for many, with 48.2 percent saying they were assigned vacation dates without their consent, and 37.3 percent revealing they had been forced into working overtime and on their days off.
Over two-thirds said they had failed to be fully compensated, essentially providing “free labor” by coming to work early and leaving late.
In addition, issues of sexual violence (13.2 percent) and verbal abuse (65.5 percent) were found to be present in nurses’ workplaces.
In a move that would address these concerns, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said on March 20 it will implement a comprehensive plan to improve the working conditions and treatment of nurses.
The plan entails revising relevant laws so that individuals in the medical sector that commit sexual assault or other human rights infringements will have their professional license revoked. The law currently only outlaws immoral acts that take place during diagnosis and treatment procedures.Those involved in “taeum” will likewise be invalidated from practicing their profession. Meaning “to burn” (extended meaning is “to burn until [he or she] becomes proficient), taeum is a word denoting bullying of a junior nurse by a senior under the guise of mentorship.
To ease the burden of responsibility that falls on the shoulders of experienced nurses to train new recruits – believed to be the reason for the existence of taeum – the Ministry of Health and Welfare will employ nurses whose main task is to instruct and train new and inexperienced hires.
Other measures include bolstering the current population of working nurses by 100,000 in the next five years and the establishment of a “nighttime nurse management fee” that would increase compensation for nurses employed in three-team shifts at hospitals requiring around the clock duty starting next year.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)