Should Nurses Work for 8 Hour or 12 Hour Shifts?

Registered nurses used to work for 8 hours per shift only. Today, however, most nurses work 12-hour shifts.

Facilities and nurses who favor 12-hour shifts have their good reasons for doing so but those who advocate for 8-hour shifts contend that there is a lack of effectiveness and safety for those who work longer than10 hours.

Below are some things to consider when creating your nurse’s work schedule.

Regardless of what the nurse’s schedule may say, there are many times when nurses work overtime because of patient needs or staffing demands. Shortage of nurses or patient needs makes nurses have no choice but to work past their scheduled end of shift. There is no work-hour policy for registered nurses in the US. So while on paper, the 12 hour shift may look great, in eality the shifts can turn into 13 or more hours.

If a nurse works a very long shift, then she is very prone to error. The likelihood of errors is increased when nurses work longer hours.

The risk of injuries or burn out is reduced with a move to an 8-hour shift. Because of sleep deprivation and slower reaction times, nurses who work long hours can suffer from workplace injuries. Research has shown that nurses who work more than 10 hours will more likely experience burnout.

Nurses are important to get patients the care that they need. Without nurses, patients will suffer from lack of medical attention and care.

If nurses work 12-hour shifts, then there is less turnover for patients. A tired nurse who has to work overtime will not be able to properly take care of her patients.

A long shift can adversely affect a nurse’s health. But if a nurse works longer shifts, then she spends fewer days and less time overall commuting to work. Longer shifts also offer nurses more flexibility. They get longer stretches of time at home if they have longer shifts. 8-hour shifts mean that staff can be home for several hours a day. But 12-hour shifts allow nurses to have four-day weekends. There is also flexibility in scheduling 12-hour shifts. It will reduce absenteeism, increased retention, and boost morale,

If you are management, then it is easier to work with longer shifts. You only need to schedule two shifts a day. With shorter shifts, you may have more variety of start and end times. This can be confusing to everyone. Use an employee clock time to help keep track of employees’ work hours.

Organizations may differ in their nursing shifts. The things considered above should help you think about how shifts affect your staff, your patients, and your bottom line.

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