The Extended Work Shift – Is 12 Hours Too Long for Nurses to Work?

Published: 14th October 2010
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There are pros and cons to working a 12 hour nursing shift. Both unionized and not unionized hospitals feel there is a benefit of changing the 5 day work week to 3 days a week. they are It is becoming exceedingly popular in the workplace for nurses to work 12 hour shifts instead of the average 8 hours a day and many feel that after a period of adjustment that it is easy to work the 12 hour shift.

The 12 hour shift gives a nurse more time to get to know that patient during their shift. A patient can be more comfortable knowing who to call, or who to ask for when there are just two people they need to deal with. and the nurse is more familiar with patient progress when working a longer time period. The patients undoubtedly benefit from the reliability and consistency of dealing with the same nurses more regularly. Many nurses enjoy the freedom that the extra days off a week give them. The ability to get extra things done, and spend more time with their families is a great benefit to the working parent.

Working the extra 4 hours a day might be difficult at first to get used to, but many will say that they feel more productive now. In some cases it is a matter of wearing the right clothing and nursing shoes to maintain a comfort level during the long shift. With the change to uniform scrubs from the traditional white nurses’ uniform, nursing uniforms have become much more functional as well as comfortable. And even more important, wearing the correct nursing shoes to keep the feet from becoming tired and painful is a must.

Working 8 hour shifts, 5 days a week, there were more nurses having to pass on information and unfulfilled patient care to the next shift of nurses. Many times the shift change in the middle of the day was the busiest time of the day, as newly admitted patients often showed up on the nursing floors right at shift change, making it difficult to pass on chart information and tend to the newly admitted patients that arrive to settle in their rooms.

The cons to working three 12 hour shifts are that some of the older nurses or any nurses with medical conditions themselves are finding it difficult no matter which nursing shoes or nursing uniforms they wear. They find it too tiresome and some require a long time to truly get used to the long hours. Many consider even though they did not like the idea of 12 hour shifts they grow to love them. They love their free time off, and the ability to finish what they start. Another con is that nurses are only working 36 hour shifts each week. If they were working 8 hour shifts they would get to work all 40 hours, so many people lose out on those extra 4 hours each week. This can be frustrating to many nurses who depend on that money.

Research has shown the differences in adjusting to the longer work shifts between older nurses and younger nurses. Older nurses had a more difficult time working the 12 hour shifts. Their performance level suffered during the night shift but increased during the day shifts. There was little or no change in the performance levels between the shifts for the younger nurses. They remained relatively consistent.

Health care workers love the increased days off they get through working three 12 hour shifts. They also love that they deal with a lot of the same patients and have more time to get to know the better so they can assist them according to their ailments. After a period of adjustment, most nurses are happy with three 12 hour shifts. With properly chosen nursing uniforms and nursing shoes to provide physical comfort during the work day a nurse can concentrate on patient care instead of sore feet. And at the end of the 3 day work period, the nurse can go home and look forward period to 4 days of family time.

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