8-Hour vs 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

The Difference Between 8 or 12 Hour Nursing Shifts

The Differences Between an 8 Hour and 12 Hour Shift

In the nursing profession, most nurses will have to work a few overtime shifts or longer, 10- to 12-hour options. In some cases, nursing shortages, sick leave, and vacation days can all throw a kink in a regular schedule. In other cases, 12-hour shifts are an alternate option to 8-hour days, and nurses can work three days a week and be done with their full-time hours.

To most nursing students, the thought of working for 12 hours straight (usually 7am to 7pm or 7pm to 7am) can be daunting. That’s 12 hours of being on your feet and making important decisions related to health care and patient safety. And while it’s never easy, almost all nurses who work 10- or 12-hour shifts prefer them that way.

Benefits of a Longer Shift

  • Three or four days per week (as compared to five): If you work 12-hour shifts, you typically only work three days per week to reach your full-time hours. This is great for individuals who want more free time during the week to do activities or spend time with family.
  • Better care for patients: Most patients see a total of three nurses throughout the day. Those who have 12-hour nurses only see two. This translates to better care and more personalized connections between nurses and their patients.
  • Less commute time: If you live far away from your place of employment, working longer shifts is a good way to reduce your commute time and save money on gas.
  • More time to finish daily tasks: Although you may have more patients and will be taking care of them for a longer period of time, you will probably find that you have more time to complete your paperwork and other daily work. This can drastically reduce your stress—a big issue for today’s nurses.

Benefits of a Shorter Shift

  • More time at home each day: If you have children or a family to take care of, working 8-hour shifts gives you more flexibility each day. You can be home for dinner (or breakfast) every night and build a stable schedule for everyone that matters.
  • More rest: 12-hour shifts tend to work well if you have the ability to go home and crash for an extra long sleep that night (or day, as the case may be). If you have other responsibilities, it may be hard to carve out enough time to recover from the long shift.
  • Lower rates of burnout: Although nurses in both types of shifts are susceptible to burnout, shorter shifts can have less of an impact on the body—especially since it makes it easier to get regular exercise and eat well.

Most nurses either love or hate 12-hours shifts, and what works for you might not work for someone else. So before you decide it isn’t right for you, give a longer shift a try and see how well you can cope. It might be a great way to continue enjoying your life while doing the work you love.


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