How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?

When it comes to hourly work, most nurses work a set number of hours daily.

It includes working 8-hour, 10-hour, 12-hour, or even 16-hour shifts.

However, 12-hour shifts are standard in 24-hour facilities like hospitals, critical care, and urgent care settings.

Based on where nurses work, they may also be required to operate at particular scheduled times of the day.

For instance, nurses frequently work day or night shift rotations in hospital settings.

These shifts typically run from 7 am to 7 pm or 7 pm to 7 am.

It ensures that adequate staff is always on duty and reduces over/under-scheduling throughout the day.

Standard 24-Hour Healthcare Settings for Nurses

Regarding healthcare settings, nurses operate in a variety of medical-focused environments.

It includes hospitals, 24-hour clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, emergency care, hospice care, and nursing homes.

In each case, healthcare facilities require medical care at all times of the day.

As a result, facilities require nurses to be on staff 24/7 to assist patients with illnesses, ailments, medical conditions, and injuries.

Standard Healthcare Facilities with Set Hours

With that said, numerous non-emergency care healthcare settings have daily set hours.

For instance, doctor’s offices, primary care, nurse practitioner practices, and some urgent care centers operate at specific hours.

These self-owned businesses often operate day/evening hours, such as 8 am – 5 pm on weekdays with limited weekend hours.

The hours set by these businesses vary depending on the physician, nurse practitioner, or healthcare owner.

As a result, they do not operate 24/7 compared to other healthcare facilities.

In these instances, a registered nurse has more defined hours.

For instance, nurses may work Monday thru Friday from 8 am to 5 pm at a privately owned healthcare office/clinic.

However, depending on the facility, weekend hours may apply.

Beyond that, nurses that work in a specialized field have established hours based on their work and responsibilities.

These careers include blogging/writing, school nurses, nurse educators, research nurses, office nurses, telephone triage nurses, and other fields.

There are over 75 different career specialties in nursing.

A Nurse’s Schedule is Dependent Upon the Following:

  • Who the nurse works for
  • Whether they work in a high-demand area
  • Specific scheduling requirements based on the needs of the facility
  • Current staffing shortages
  • Employee gaps during particular times of the day
  • Negotiated schedule before or during employment

Weekly Schedules for Nurses

Regarding the weekly schedule, nurses may work 8-hour shifts (5x) per week, 10-hour shifts (4x) per week, or 12-hour shifts (3x) per week.

Registered nurses that work eight or 10-hour days work around 40 hours per week.

However, these hours typically occur in non-24-hour healthcare settings, like private practices, school districts, or universities.

Nurses who work 12-hour shifts in hospitals and 24-hour emergency care facilities operate roughly 36 hours per week.

Full-Time Hours for Nurses

As specialty mentioned, nurses work 8-hour, 10-hour, and 12-hour shifts.

8-hour shifts typically occur in non-emergency care settings with set hours, like physician offices or some urgent care facilities.

School districts, nurse practitioner practices, and government facilities may also provide set hours.

12- shifts typically occur in 24-hour emergency settings like hospitals.

36-hour and 40-hour workweeks are commonly considered full-time for registered nurses and LPNs.

Nurses who work 12-hour shifts often accumulate 36 work hours per week because they operate three days per week.

However, nurses in other related industries like private practices, research facilities, or school districts work 8-hour shifts.

As a result, these healthcare professionals may accumulate 40 work hours weekly because they operate five days per week.

Each work schedule has pros and cons depending on the individual working them.

Nurses can quickly accumulate overtime during shifts or work extra days to make more money.

Therefore, these hourly variations do not account for voluntary/required overtime or extra shifts.

Depending on the setting, some healthcare facilities require frequent overtime work.

Why do Some Nurses Work 16-Hour Shifts?

Although much less common, some nurses work 16-hour shifts in specific healthcare settings.

It’s especially true during certain circumstances, such as a nursing shortage or highly demanding professions.

For nurses who work 16-hour days, these schedules are equivalent to working two 8-hour shifts.

In this case, nurses operating 16-hour shifts may only work two days per week.

How Nurses Accumulate Overtime

Overtime can be voluntary or mandatory, depending on the facility’s needs.

Overtime can result from a nursing shortage, hiring challenges, sickness, large-scale emergencies, or an influx of patients.

It may also occur due to increased illnesses during the holidays or an unexpectedly high number of employee callouts.

Many variables can impact how many hours a nurse works in a given week/month.

Nevertheless, not all professions require nurses to operate on a 24-hour schedule or need them to put in overtime.

Doctor’s offices, rehabilitation centers, private practices, research centers, and schools typically have specific work hours.

As a result, these places do not require nurses to remain available for emergencies or 24-hour care support.

In rare cases, nurses may work overtime if another nurse calls out and leaves these facilities understaffed.

Factors That Affect Overtime Schedules for Nurses:

  • The demands of their job
  • Healthcare facility staff shortages
  • Emergencies (i.e., natural disasters that lead to a large number of injured civilians)
  • Special employer/patient needs
  • Nurse call outs

Hours for Part-time Nurses

Employers can decide what is considered full-time or part-time work within their state’s specific laws.

There are shared responsibility provisions that mandate which is considered full-time/part-time.

However, employers can determine an employee’s full-time/part-time status within the provision.

According to the IRS, an employee who works at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours of service per month is a full-time employee.

Also, the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) says that employees who work more than 40 hours must receive overtime pay.

Most professions (including nursing) generally consider 30 – 40 hours of work per week full-time status.

Accordingly, a part-time registered nurse may work 30 hours or less per week.

Employers working less than their full-time peers may receive lower hourly wages and fewer benefits due to their status.

Part-time nurses sometimes only work 10 – 20 hours per week or on a fluctuating schedule.

With that said, some traveling nurses work on a per diem basis.

Furthermore, they generally operate on a contract basis at a healthcare facility for a specified time.

As with staffed registered nurses, travel nurses work part-time or full-time hours.

Finally, nurses can work for more than one facility simultaneously, impacting their part-time/full-time status and salary.

Part-time work is possible in any nursing profession.

However, it’s more common in fields that don’t typically require full-time employment.

It’s also common in fields that need as many nurses on staff as possible and is willing to be flexible with scheduling.

Some nurses work part-time at a separate healthcare facility to earn extra pay after working for their primary employer.

Nurse Hours During Nights, Weekends, and Holidays

As you can expect, the healthcare field is an essential part of the economy.

It requires healthcare professionals to care for patients regardless of the time or time of year.

As a result, registered nurses work evenings, nights, and weekends.

Of course, this includes holidays because their work never shuts down, and caring for people is a 24/7 responsibility.

With that said, nurses working at personally owned doctor/primary care offices have different schedules.

Schools, medical offices, and rehabilitation centers also have set hours.

Essentially, these offices can close during the weekend and holidays based on the owner’s decision.

While registered nurses’ extra pay for working nights and weekends depends on the healthcare facility, many states and facilities provide higher hourly rates for staff required to work during federally mandated holidays.

Many nurses enjoy working holidays because they can earn extra income during mandated holidays.

Moreover, nurses can receive additional overtime pay during busy holidays.

In short, nurses who work during holidays can receive holiday pay and overtime pay.

Some facilities offer higher pay for nurses who volunteer to work night and weekend shifts for nights and weekends.

However, that is mainly dependent upon where they work.

Do Nurses Only Work 3 Days a Week?

Numerous specializations and healthcare facilities enable nurses to work only three days per week.

These healthcare buildings typically include hospitals and some emergency care facilities.

Three-day work weeks enable nurses to do more during a typical day and provide more scheduling stability.

Hospitals usually divide work schedules into the morning (7 am – 7 pm) and night (7 pm – 7 am) shifts.

As a result, there are fewer issues with managing scheduling throughout the day.

Splitting shifts into day/night schedules also ensures each rotation understands the previous nurse’s duties.

It would complicate work if nurses came into work at varying times throughout the day.

There would also be more challenges with staffing issues and shortages due to nurses calling out or scheduling mistakes.

Other industries may have employees come in at different shifts throughout the day.

Do Nurses Work 12-Hour Shifts Every Day?

As previously mentioned, nurses in hospitals and 24-hour facilities may work 12-hour shifts three days per week.

There are always nurses working 12-hour shifts at these 24/7 healthcare facilities.

However, each nurse typically works three days per week and has four days off to rest and recover.

A nurse’s schedule can vary drastically depending on their work days for a particular week.

For instance, a nurse may operate Monday through Wednesday and have Thursday through Sunday off for one week.

They may work Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday and have Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday off on another week. 

What 12-Hour Shifts/Schedules do Nurses Work?

Many hospitals incorporate a typical morning and evening/night shift rotation schedule for nurses.

These schedules are divided into 7 am – 7 pm shifts and 7 pm – 7 am shifts.

The purpose of these schedules is to ensure each shift/rotation is fully staffed and to prevent shortages throughout the day.

If nurses work at various times throughout the day, it causes scheduling conflicts, shortages, or overstaffing at specific times.

Dividing work shifts into specific rotations also makes it easier for staff to transfer duties to the new rotation.

Nurses don’t need to worry about employees showing up at different times, which would cause disorder with patient flow, duties, and other responsibilities.

How Many Hours do Part-Time Nurses Work?

A part-time nurse’s schedule can vary greatly depending on availability and the agreements between them and their employer.

Some part-time nurses work 30 hours per week or less at certain facilities, while others work one 12-hour shift at a hospital.

Where a nurse works also impacts their weekly schedule and hours.

Nurses at a 24-hour hospital likely work a 12-hour shift, while those at private practices may work 8-hour shifts. 

As previously mentioned, those who work under 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month are typically considered part-time.

Do Nurses Work Weekends?

Most healthcare facilities that provide direct patient care require nurses to work weekends.

For instance, many nurses work weekends in hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities, and outpatient clinics.

Nurses in research facilities, school districts, academic establishments, government facilities, publications, and other non-patient-facing careers may receive weekends off.

These nurses may also receive holidays off since their employers do not require them on those days.

What do Nurses do During a Typical Shift?

Registered nurses perform a broad range of duties during a typical shift.

For instance, these professionals monitor patients to ensure they recover adequately from treatments.

Registered nurses provide bedside care, administer medications, conduct vital assessments, educate patients on their conditions and keep medical records updated.

They also assist with basic tasks like feeding and bathing patients and helping them with mobility and rehabilitation.

Registered Nurse Responsibilities Include:

  • Monitoring their patient’s condition
  • Recording patient symptoms and keeping records of their recovery status
  • Making patient assessments (non-diagnosis) of their medical condition ( i.e., injuries or sickness)
  • Assisting patients dealing with an ailment or trauma
  • Administering medications and specialized treatments
  • Helping patients in rehabilitation programs
  • Monitoring medical machinery to ensure proper operation
  • Assisting doctors, healthcare specialists, and staff with daily tasks

Nurses work with various specialists, providing insights and helpful information to ensure patients receive adequate care.

Without skilled nurses providing education, therapies, and support, patients wouldn’t receive their treatments on time.

They’d also have more difficulty spending sufficient time with healthcare professionals to obtain accurate health assessments.

As a result, patient health would decline due to inadequate medical care and attention.

Doctors, physicians, and other professionals are limited in providing sufficient support for multiple patients independently.

Therefore, skilled and qualified nurses ensure patients, medical staff, and the healthcare field receive adequate aid.