Why Do Nurses Work 12 Hour Shifts?

There are numerous reasons nurses work 12-hour shifts.

Firstly, many nurses report having a better work-life balance working twelve hours per day, three days per week.

It allows them to rest, recover, and rejuvenate for four days off.

Nurses who work overtime and do not rest frequently experience nurse burnout.

As a result, taking advantage of a three-day workweek is highly beneficial for nurses who require adequate rest.

Some nurses also state that they can provide better medical care by working longer shifts.

The extended workdays permit nurses to spend more time with patients, ensuring they receive adequate care.

Finally, nurses have more time to focus on essential tasks.

It reduces medical errors because they can complete necessary tasks within their allotted time for that day.

Working 12-hour shifts allows nurses to recover faster, minimize burnout, improve patient care and reduce medical errors.

How Many Hours do Nurses Work Per Week?

Full-time nurses work 36 – 40 hours weekly, not including overtime or emergencies requiring them to stay past their regular shifts.

Those taking extra shifts or working past their daily schedule can readily work an additional 12 hours or more per week.

Numerous nurses work 12-hour shifts, so an extra workday adds twelve hours to their workweek.

According to NYU, nearly half of newly licensed nurses work overtime, approximately 3 – 4 additional work hours weekly.

Based on that estimate, many new nurses work closer to 40 hours than 36 hours per week.

According to PubMed, that number is even higher, with 55% of nursing staff working more than 40 hours per week!

The NYU study also mentions that one in ten nurses has a side job to earn additional income.

How Many Hours do Nurses Work a Year?

It’s difficult to determine how many hours nurses work annually because every job and situation is different.

Nurses operating 36 – 40 hours weekly with two weeks of vacation and no overtime work about 1,800 – 2,000 hours yearly.

However, many nurses work overtime and, as a result, end up with more than 2,000 hours of work time per year.

The career registered nurses choose also determines the number of hours they work each year.

For instance, school nurses may work 40 hours per week, except for summer break.

They also typically work day shifts and have nights, weekends, and some holidays off.

Conversely, hospital nurses may work three days per week and be scheduled for the morning, evening, or night shifts.

They may also work overtime due to staffing shortages, medical emergencies, or other circumstances.

Finally, nurses in medical care environments do not receive summer breaks or holidays off due to their work.

Do All Nurses Work 3 Days a Week

Not all nurses work three days per week or 12-hour shifts.

Many non-bedside jobs for nurses offer more traditional work schedules.

For instance, school nurses, research nurses, staff nurses, and case managers work Monday through Friday.

They also typically work morning shifts and 8-hour days instead of 12-hour shifts.

Because they don’t work within patient care, they don’t need to worry about medical emergencies or other time-sensitive tasks.

Instead, they can focus on completing tasks on a standard Monday through Friday work schedule.

The downside for nurses who prefer 3-day schedules is that non-bedside occupations often require five-day work weeks.

As a result, nurses in non-bedside care jobs only receive two days off per week instead of four.

With that said, non-bedside occupations are less stressful and demanding for nurses who enjoy slower-paced work.

8-Hour vs. 12-Hour Shifts | Which is Better?

There is a debate regarding whether 8-hour or 12-hour shifts are better for nurses.

Some debate that 12-hour shifts create additional fatigue, leading to more medical errors, injuries, and burnout.

Conversely, others argue that 12-hour shifts and 3-day workweeks provide more days off, allowing for better recovery.

The additional recovery days mean nurses can be more present and supportive of patients receiving medical care.

It’s challenging to determine which of these hypotheses are accurate in most situations.

It’s more likely that the best work schedule for nurses is the one that provides them with the best work-life balance.

Some nurses perform better in non-bedside care positions and enjoy working 5-days per week, 8-hours per day.

Other nurses prefer a hospital schedule where they work 3-days per week, 12-hours per day.

As a result, there is no best work schedule for every nurse.

It’s also important to consider the most effective schedule for different nurse settings based on the facility’s requirements.

Some settings require 12-hour shifts to ensure patients receive adequate care and nurses fully complete essential medical tasks.

Demand for Nurse and Career Opportunities

As older RNs retire (the average age of nurses in the U.S. is around 50) and the economy continually expands, the need for educated and qualified nurses will continue to rise.

Nurses are in high demand, and this demand is unlikely to change soon.

As a result, it gives nurses plenty of opportunities to find a job and move their careers forward.

For students interested in starting a nursing career, the healthcare sector offers various specialties to accommodate most individuals.

These specialists offer everything from direct patient care to research, self-employment, education, and writing.

For instance, nursing students can become emergency room nurses, bloggers, forensic nurses, teachers, lawyer aides, researchers, and more.

And the high demand for nurses means many opportunities for career advancement, great pay, and the ability to choose where you want to work.

The high demand also provides a high level of job security.

Some nurses will have to travel or relocate to find suitable work if they live in a rural environment.

By 2020, the global economy will require 6 million new nurses to address the nursing shortage partially.

Moreover, the pandemic has created a significant need for additional staff, pushing the nursing shortage further.

Why It’s Hard To Get Into Certain Healthcare Fields

The competition for certain spots may remain reasonably high depending on the field a nurse wants.

It is especially true among new nurses compared to those with higher education and more working experience.

Less experienced nurses willing to work entry-level positions and take jobs at locations needing staffing will have the most significant opportunities.

They will apply for better positions at local hospitals and healthcare organizations as they gain the skills and experience required to fill skilled jobs.

Eventually, this will lead to getting hired for desirable positions.

Reasons Nurses Have Difficulty Applying For Jobs

  • Applying for jobs with limited positions
  • Lacking experience in careers that require expertise
  • Applying at popular locations with lots of applications
  • Looking for jobs that don’t correctly match their skillset
  • Not meeting employer requirements (i.e., living within a certain distance)

Several other reasons it’s difficult for nurses to find work in specific fields. However, these are well-known examples.

Many positions offer unique careers for nurses of all education/experience levels.

The difficulty in getting hired depends on the job position/title, the location, and the nurse’s background.

If a particular position requires experience, gain experience in a related field to improve the odds of getting hired.

It is especially true if the field has limited positions with many applicants and only hires the best.