As a nurse, you’ll find that you can work various schedules, such as eight-hour shifts five times a week, 10-hour shifts four days a week, and 12-hour shifts three days per week. If a career in nursing intrigues you and you want to find out what working hours will suit your lifestyle, read on.
In this article, you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions about nursing working hours, such as, “How many hours do nurses work a week and a day?” “What are some pros and cons of nursing hours?” “How many hours can a nurse work straight?” etc. Keep reading!
How Many Hours Do Nurses Work a Week?
The number of hours nurses work ranges from 36 to 40 hours a week for full-time nurses and less than 30 hours for part-time nurses.
How Many Hours Do Nurses Work a Day?
The number of hours nurses work in a day can vary depending on the specific nursing job, the healthcare facility, and the shift schedule. However, there are three most common nursing shifts:
-Eight-hour shifts (five days per week): Primarily found in clinical and school settings; Note that even though nurses of other facilities can work eight-hour shifts, they might be required to work on weekends or at night.
-10-hour shifts (four days per week): This is the least common type of nursing shift, sometimes used in 24/7 healthcare settings.
-12-hour shifts (three days per week): This is the most common type of nursing shift, especially in 24/7 healthcare facilities (hospitals, assisted living homes, or urgent care centers). Nurses can choose between day shifts (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) or night shifts (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
How Many Hours Can a Nurse Work Straight?
Nurses can work 12 up to 16 hours straight. The 16-hour shifts are far less common and used during shortages or emergencies. Nurses working 16-hour shifts only work two days per week.
What Are the Factors That Affect Nurses’ Working Hours?
Several factors influence the working hours of nurses. These include facility policies, work settings, and personal preferences.
Firstly, facility policies play a critical role in determining the number of hours a nurse will work. Some facilities require nurses to work a specific number of hours each week, while others have more flexible schedules.
Secondly, the setting also plays a significant role in determining a nurse’s working hours. Nurses working in 24/7 patient care settings, such as the ICU, ER, or inpatient mental health nursing, may work longer shifts of 10+ hours a day, while nurses working in clinical settings usually work eight hours a day.
Lastly, personal preferences also factor into a nurse’s working hours. Some nurses may opt to work longer shifts to have more days off, while others may prefer shorter shifts that allow them to spend more time with their families.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Nursing Hours?
As with most things in life, nursing hours have their advantages and disadvantages. Below, you’ll find pros and cons to help you choose the nursing hours that best suit you and your lifestyle.
Some of the benefits of having long working hours are:
-More days off: Because you work longer hours, you’ll be able to have more free days, which is a great advantage as you’ll have more time for other activities.
-A flexible schedule: Working three long shifts during the week allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and not miss out on significant events and moments.
-More time for your family: Although you may not have a lot of free time on the days you’re working, on the days you’re off work, you’ll be able to spend qualitative time with your family or friends.
-Saving money and wasting less time: If you live a fair distance from your workplace, working longer hours will help you save money and not waste as much time commuting.
Some of the drawbacks of longer working hours are:
-Feeling overwhelmed: Due to the chaotic nature of healthcare facilities, at first glance, it may seem like 12-hour shifts will go by quickly; however, you may find it overwhelming at the end of the day.
-Experience physical strain: As caretakers, nurses prioritize their patients above their own health, leaving them with backache, sore feet, headache, and mental exhaustion after a long shift.
-Make mistakes due to exhaustion: After working for 10+ hours straight, it’s challenging to maintain focus, which can make you prone to make mistakes.
-Being burned out: Working long hours in a dynamic environment with many trials and tribulations can lead to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, which might prevent you from being your best self at home and work.
How To Stay Well and Productive During Long Work Hours
Preparing beforehand is key to a productive shift, especially a longer one, as you’ll get through your day more easily and feel better about your job. You’ll find that applying a few simple tips will set you up for success. Those tips are:
-Sleep well: Getting enough sleep will prolong fatigue and help you stay focused and refreshed.
-Eat properly: Fueling your body with the proper nutrients will enable you to perform optimally. You can meal prep before your shift, make snacks, or eat a healthy breakfast before work.
-Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining good health. It is vital to ensure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day to support your bodily functions and prevent dehydration.
-Get rest: Taking time to rest and recharge is crucial for maintaining good physical and mental health, as well as improving your productivity and focus at work. Make the most of your days off by engaging in activities that help you unwind and release stress, such as meditating, exercising, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing hobbies you enjoy.
During your shift, you can follow some steps to stay focused and productive, such as:
-Taking breaks when you can, getting fresh air, or simply focusing on something other than work (reading an article, watching videos, catching up with family and friends) will help you get back to work feeling more relaxed and motivated.
-Eating snacks, whether they’re homemade or not, to be able to meet the nutrition requirements throughout the day.
-Learning what works for you and making changes to your routine as necessary to fit the dynamic work environment of a healthcare facility.
The Bottom Line
Nurses’ work hours vary greatly depending on their specific job and work setting. While some nurses may work traditional 8-hour shifts, others may work 12-hour shifts or even longer. Additionally, nurses who work in certain specialties or healthcare settings may have more flexible or variable schedules.
However nurses’ shifts may be, it is important for both nurses and their employers to prioritize work-life balance and take steps to ensure that nurses are able to provide high-quality care while also taking care of their own well-being.