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12 Hour Shifts or 8 Hour Shifts - What is Best for You and Your Patient

I have worked in a variety of settings that have allowed me to work 8 hour shifts, 10 hour shifts as well as 12 and even 16 hour shifts. After working a variety of schedules, I am able to provide pros and cons for both 8 hour shifts as well as 12 hour shifts based upon my experiences. Here is what I have found:

8 hour shifts – Pros:

  • Provide high levels of accountability for patient outcomes simply because you have been with the same patients every day for 5 days consecutively.
  • Four to Five hours less per shift exposed to disease, stress, and continual selflessness.
  • Expected shift flow with each 8 hour shift allows the nursing personnel to divide patient care and nursing responsibility evenly (i.e. 7am-3pm handles administrative responsibilities, morning assessments, daily care planning, and patient discharges, 3pm-11pm handles measuring effectiveness of treatments, patient education, and patient admissions, and 11pm-7am handles continued observation, chart audits, and safety checks related to patient care equipment).
  • Working 8 hours per day allows adequate time during the week to accomplish things like running errands, and having two consecutive days off in a row, usually the weekend with the rest of the world.
  • Working 5 days a week, 8 hours per shift allows for healthy routines to be established and carried out more effectively, such as getting adequate sleep, exercise and eating healthy.
  • Being able to have the same days off as your significant other as a way of maximizing quality time together.

8 hour shifts – Cons:

  • If work is particularly stressful, you have to deal with it for 5 days in a row before you get a break.
  • Only having off on the weekends may provide complications with making Doctor Appointments, and attending events during the weekday without using paid time off.
  • Depending on the 8 hour shift, Day, Evening, or Night, there are extremes with each shift that may outweigh the pros (i.e. Day shift is NON STOP stress with lots of hands in the pot regarding patient care, evening shift can get OVERWHELMED with admissions and get home late after their family members have gone to sleep, and night shift has NO personal life at all and are usually sleep deprived).
  • Rush Hour Traffic for the off-going day shift can be enough to hate working this schedule.
  • Feeling like there is not enough time to adequately provide care for all of my patients.

12 hour shifts – Pros:

  • Working only three days per week, and having four days off to accomplish things that I would normally not be able to accomplish in a 5 day work week.
  • Improved quality improvement, and risk management efforts due to only two nurses being on duty per 24 hour period.
  • Increased schedule flexibility based off of personal need (i.e. Tues, Thurs, Sat, or Mon, Tues, Wed, or Fri, Sat, Sun. scheduling options).

12 hour shifts – Cons:

  • Extreme exhaustion at the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th hour of a work day.
  • Increased errors (i.e. missed documentation, near misses, communication breakdown, patient falls, etc.)
  • Decreased physical wellness from missing meal breaks, holding urine too long, not eating healthy food items, not drinking enough water, not getting enough sleep, etc.
  • Not having a set schedule – only a few places have offered me a choice in setting my work days. Most facilities schedule you according to need, and that could be every other weekend, every other day, or four shifts in a row. I have been scheduled all of the above without much say in the matter.
  • You get to watch all of the nursing management and patient support staff (social work, case management, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, dietary services, etc.) leave after they asked the world of you in the first 8 hours of your shift — leaving you bitter because you are still trying to catch up after helping them gather the patient data they needed to fulfill their role in patient care for the day.
  • Less nursing staff to cover unexpected call outs, missed shifts, or emergencies.

Now that you have heard me list off pros and cons for both 8 hour and 12 hour shifts, I would like to hear your insights! Please contribute to the discussion by leaving a comment! Your comment, opinion, insight, advice, and experience may just help us gain more autonomy over scheduling and staffing to better meet the needs of our patients!

Best Wishes!



This Guest Blog article originally appeared on TheNurseSpeak.com and Kaplan Test Prep's Calling All Nurses.

Damion Jenkins RN, MSN is the founder and CEO of The Nurse Speak, LLC. - a nurse education and consultation services company and blog. He specializes in creating individualized tutoring plans that helps his students develop test taking strategies for success. He also offers consulting services for healthcare facilities desiring expert knowledge and understanding of professional growth and staff development principles, customer service and patient satisfaction strategies, improving nursing staff retention and job satisfaction, and workplace conflict resolution skills. His blog offers helpful tips, strategies, and discussion to enhance the nursing profession. Damion is also an adjunct professor for a local community college in the Baltimore City area, and teaches a variety of healthcare courses including: Nursing, Certified Nurse Assistant, Geriatric Nurse Assistant, Certified Patient Care Technician, IV Therapy, Phlebotomy, Certified Medicine Aide, and Nurse Refresher. With more than 20 years of customer service and leadership experience, Damion offers many resources and strategies for success that have been shown to improve the delivery of nursing care excellence. He has helped a variety of healthcare facilities create and maintain patient satisfaction committees resulting in improving survey scores and increased reimbursements, and he is often sought out to provide expert advice on how to positively impact workplace culture and job satisfaction among nursing staff.

He has joined the Pedagogy Authors with several new format inservice and regular CE courses. Click on the course names below to learn more:

Posted: 7/18/2017 8:59:36 AM
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