When is a shift too long?

When I entered the nursing profession, one of the draws was working fewer days per week. Prior to working as a nurse, I worked a Monday through Friday job. Heck, I remember working six day weeks on occasion!

During the time I was deciding to pursue a career in nursing, I read that nurses commonly work three 12-hour shifts a week. This was considered full-time with benefits in almost all facilities.

I thought to myself, “Holy cow! That would be awesome! I’d have more days off than I’d be working in a 7-day week. Who wouldn’t want that?!”

Over the years, the length of my shifts has stayed pretty steady until I became a full-time Master’s student. I like the 12-hour shift for the above reason. I had coworkers throughout the years who preferred an 8-hour shift over my 12 hours, but I always chalked that up to personal preference.

Well, it seems a recent study has found that shifts longer than 10 hours can increase job dissatisfaction, burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

The article, “Shift Length Affects Nurse Well-Being, Patient Satisfaction” says:

“The researchers found that more than 80 percent of the nurses were satisfied with the hospital scheduling practice. However, patient dissatisfaction increased as the proportion of nurses working shifts of more than 13 hours increased. Burnout, job dissatisfaction, and intent to leave the job were up to two and a half times more likely for nurses working shifts of 10 hours or longer versus those working shorter shifts.”

I’m not sure I agree with the findings, myself. Although I do like what the article suggests as a solution or a means to keep the burnout and job dissatisfaction low:

“Nursing leaders should also encourage workplace cultures that respect nurses’ days off and vacation time, promote nurses’ prompt departure at the end of a shift, and allow nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution.”

How about that? I think we should all present those suggestions to our respective managers.

What do you think, gang? What do you consider to be too long of a shift?

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3 Responses to When is a shift too long?

  1. acosenza2 RN

    I have done my fair share of 12-16 hour shifts since becoming a nurse (have been a nurse for a little less than a year) and by that 12 hour mark I am ready to go home. At the 16 hour mark I am exhausted. I really have no problem with 12 hours shifts, but much beyond that for any extended period of time ( ie multiple days) and it gets to be mentally draining.

  2. saturn567

    12 hours tops and 8 hours for minmum, I have done both, If I like the job then I would work an extra shift when required or needed, but I don’t like to make it a habit during the times i am in school, I do my 3-4 days a week then try to work on school work and rest on my days from from school and work

  3. Judy DeArmond

    As a 40+ year veteran R.N. there have been times when I had to work several 24+ hr shift as a staff nurse. Working a standard shift at one local hospital was typically 16-18 hr, and then having to work my on-call shift put me at the 24 hr+ mark several times. Thank God I’m not in that situation anymore! Lack of staffing caused me to have to take call (and work) 2 different departments (PACU and GI). I was truly tired all the time. Not a safe situation to be in. I’m grateful that there were no incidents that jeapordized my license. When I gave my 2 week notice my manager was so angry that I was told to clear out my office and locker, and that would be my last day (I’d worked for that hospital for 17 years). Best career decision I’ve made. I’ll never allow myself to be put in a similar situation again. I was so worn out.