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Choosing Between 8 or 12 Hour Shifts for Nurses

Taylor Miranda



As a nurse, you will find that different employers have different policies regarding the length of nursing shifts. Some might offer 8-hour shifts, while others opt for 12-hour shifts. This has been a source of debate in the past.

Some Nurses Prefer 8-Hour Nursing Shifts

A study conducted by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) found that nurses who work longer shifts are two-and-a-half times more prone to burnout and job dissatisfaction. Longer shifts, especially when worked three days in a row, can increase fatigue and interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Nurses who work longer hours might suffer physically from it. Studies have shown there is an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes and other serious health issues. Working shorter shifts also reduces the risk for workplace injuries like muscle strains or needle sticks.

Patients tend to be more satisfied when they are cared for by nurses who worked less than 11 hours during their shift. The strain of a longer shift can lead to more errors being made in patient care.

Some Nurses Prefer 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

Instead of having to work five days a week, nurses who work 12-hour shifts generally work a three-day workweek. This allows them to maintain a better work-life balance, which is especially important when raising a family.

Working a shorter workweek means that you spend less time commuting to work. That also means less time sitting in traffic and less money spent on gas. If you use public transportation, you also save on that expense.

Nursing managers find that it is easier to schedule longer shifts. Having the flexibility of a 12-hour shift also helps reduce absenteeism, cuts down on nurse turnover and helps boost the morale of the nursing staff. It allows nurses the flexibility they may need if they want to further their education or pick up additional work if they wish.

For the most part, it’s really a matter of personal preference and what your body can physically handle when deciding between 8- or 12-hour nursing shifts.


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