For dedicated nurses who work long hours on the front lines of healthcare, the 12-hour nursing shift has become increasingly popular. While it may sound daunting, these extended shifts offer a range of benefits that make a significant impact on both nurses and patients.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of working 12-hour nursing shifts, highlighting their effects on work-life balance, patient care, and professional growth. Let’s dive in!
Pros of Working 12-Hour Nursing Shifts:
By understanding the advantages of these longer shifts, nurses may be able to make more informed decisions about their work schedules. Let’s explore the numerous benefits that 12-hour shifts bring to the table.
Longer Breaks and More Days Off
One of the notable advantages of 12-hour nursing shifts is the extended break periods. With longer breaks, nurses can recharge, refuel, and engage in self-care activities. Additionally, the compressed schedule often allows for more consecutive days off, providing valuable time for personal pursuits, family commitments, and leisure activities that can enhance work-life balance.
For example, throughout my career at the bedside, I appreciated 12-hour shifts as they allowed me to have four days off every week. This allowed me to spend more quality time with my family on my days off!
Who doesn’t want to work fewer days in a week? When you work 12-hour shifts as a full-time nurse, you get to work three days a week instead of Five. That also means that you have four days off every week instead of only two, like most other professions.
Enhanced Continuity of Care
Working longer shifts promotes improved continuity of care for patients. Nurses who work on units where patients stay for an extended period have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their patients, gaining deeper insights into their conditions, needs, and preferences. This continuity allows nurses to provide more personalized and holistic care, resulting in better patient outcomes.
Reduced Handoffs and Communication Errors
With fewer shift changes, there is a decrease in handoffs and communication errors between nurses. This streamlined workflow enhances patient safety by minimizing the chances of critical information being overlooked or miscommunicated. It also improves efficiency, as nurses can focus more on patient care rather than spending excessive time on shift handovers.
Deeper Collaboration and Team Bonding
Although it may seem counterintuitive, extended shifts may encourage stronger collaboration and team bonding among nurses. Spending more time together fosters a sense of camaraderie, trust, and shared responsibility. Nurses can support and rely on each other, resulting in a more cohesive and efficient healthcare team.
Better Work-Life Balance
Working fewer days a week provides nurses with a better work-life balance. The extended time off allows nursesto prioritize self-care, spend quality time with family and friends, and engage in activities that rejuvenate them mentally and physically. This balance may help to prevent burnout and increase overall job satisfaction.
(In addition, working as a per diem nurse has given me an even greater work-life balance. I could choose to work as little as one day a week or as many as four or five as long as the hospital has a need for nurses.)
For nurses who prefer longer shifts, 12-hour schedules can bring financial benefits. Working fewer days in a week means that nurses can take advantage of potential overtime opportunities, allowing them to earn additional income.
Flexibility and Freedom
Working 12-hour nursing shifts often provides flexibility and freedom in scheduling. Many healthcare facilities offer various shift options, allowing nurses to select shifts that align with their personal preferences and commitments. This flexibility can be particularly valuable for nurses with childcare responsibilities, those pursuing further education, or those who simply prefer longer stretches of time off.
Working 12-hour shifts allowed me to get more creative with my work schedule. That factor has always been so important to me as a working mom. I wanted to be available when my kids needed me to be home from work. In addition, I often felt that I got to experience what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom and have the ability to also work full-time.
Less Commuting to Work (Save Time & Gas!)
Working three days a week instead of a more traditional Monday through Friday schedule means that you spend significantly less time commuting to work. In addition, if some of those days fall on a weekend, then you can miss traffic completely!
Personally, I don’t love working on the weekend because I prefer to be home with my family; however, I do appreciate how fast I can get to and from work. That is something to consider when you live in a high-traffic city such as Los Angeles.
You Can Take “Mini-Vacations” Without Using Vacation Time
When you have the option to have several days off in between workdays, it becomes possible to take mini-vacations without putting in a vacation request. In fact, I have taken up to a week off at a time to go to Mexico without using any vacation days.
When you consolidate your hours into longer periods of time per day, then you can take more days off in a row. For example, if I am putting my schedule in for a two-week period, I can request a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday for the first week and a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the second week. That leaves me with eight days off in between!
Summary of the Pros of Working 12-Hour Nursing Shifts ⇒
From improved work-life balance and enhanced patient care to opportunities for professional growth and financial advantages, these longer shifts provide a supportive and fulfilling environment for nurses. While they may require endurance and adaptability, the rewards are well worth it. By embracing the positives of 12-hour shifts, nurses can thrive in their careers and make a significant difference in the lives of their patients.
Additional recommended reading: 12 Nurse Essentials I Can’t Live Without
Cons Of Working 12-Hour Nursing Shifts:
While 12-hour nursing shifts offer certain advantages, it is important to acknowledge that they also present unique challenges. These extended work hours can impact nurses physically, emotionally, and socially. Here we will explore some of the cons associated with 12-hour shifts, shedding light on the potential difficulties nurses may face.
Physical Fatigue and Exhaustion
Extended shifts can lead to physical fatigue and exhaustion for nurses. Long hours of continuous work, often involving physically demanding tasks, can take a toll on the body. Prolonged periods of standing or lifting patients can lead to muscle strain, joint pain, and increased risk of workplace injuries.
Many nurses work 12-hour shifts with minimal breaks. We are lifting and pulling patients, often spending the majority of our day on our feet, managing stressful and sometimes critical situations while doing everything we can to get through the shift!
Increased Risk of Burnout
The demanding nature of 12-hour shifts can contribute to a higher risk of burnout among nurses. The combination of physical exhaustion, emotional stress, and the need to consistently provide high-quality care can leave nurses feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmed. This chronic stress can impact job satisfaction, mental well-being, and overall work performance.
A University of Pennsylvania study on hospital nurses found that the longer the shift, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction. The researchers discovered that nurses working shifts that were ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction.
One reason may be that longer shifts give nurses less time in a day to care for themselves. I have found it challenging to do any self-care on days I worked 12-hour shifts because nearly every waking hour is spent caring for patients. Furthermore, the study found that nurse burnout associated with longer shifts increased the chances of the nurse wanting to leave the job.
Disrupted Work-Life Balance
Working longer shifts can disrupt work-life balance, especially for nurses with family or personal commitments. The extended hours spent at work may limit quality time spent with loved ones or engaging in activities outside of work. This imbalance can lead to feelings of guilt, strain relationships, and hinder self-care practices.
Impact on Sleep Patterns
Extended shifts can disrupt sleep patterns, as nurses may struggle to find adequate time for restorative sleep. The irregular and often overnight schedules can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or obtaining sufficient rest. This can result in fatigue, decreased alertness, and impaired cognitive function.
Challenges in Patient Safety
Prolonged work hours can potentially compromise patient safety. Fatigue and decreased alertness due to long shifts increase the likelihood of errors in medication administration, documentation, or patient assessments. Nurses need to be vigilant in recognizing the impact of fatigue on their performance and take necessary precautions to ensure optimal patient care.
If You Have Kids, You Probably Won’t See Them On The Days You Work
As a nurse and mom, one of the worst parts of working 12-hour shifts is that I don’t get to see my children at all on the days that I work. They are still asleep when I leave for work at 6 o’clock in the morning and they are already in bed by the time I get home at 8:30 PM. Even worse, when I work back-to-back shifts, I may not see them at all for 24 to 36 hours at a time. I could as easily have been out-of-town as far as they are concerned. Nursing is a good career for moms, but this is still something you may want to consider.
Summary of the Con of Working 12-Hour Nursing Shifts ⇒
While 12-hour nursing shifts have their advantages, it is essential to recognize and address the potential cons they bring. Healthcare organizations and nurses themselves should prioritize strategies to mitigate the challenges associated with extended shifts, such as implementing fatigue management programs, promoting self-care practices, and fostering a supportive work environment.
By understanding and addressing these cons, nurses can navigate the complexities of 12-hour shifts while maintaining their well-being and providing the best possible care to their patients.
My Personal Take on Working 12-Hour Shifts
Working a 12-hour nursing shift makes for a very long workday. But I’ve always seen it as the price I must pay for getting to spend more days at home. So, the benefits of the 12-hour shift far outweigh the cons for me. Admittedly though, I really do focus on the benefits of working 12-hour shifts as much as I can. I must remind myself to stay positive.
I have always been grateful to have work flexibility that allows me to spend more uninterrupted days off with my family than I would have with a standard 9 to 5 schedule. When I think about it in that way, I realize I am lucky to get to have the best of both worlds.
Additional recommended reading: