12 Hour Shifts v. 8 Hour Shifts - When did it all change?

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    Okay .... I have been a nurse for a really long time (almost 20 years now). One day everyone was working 8-hour shifts and then I woke up and the next day all that was available was 12-hour shifts. Can someone tell me why nurses like 12-hours better than 8-hours?

    Ok - I know that when you work 12-hours ... you have more days off. But for me, it has been a real balancing act. I feel like when I am working, I can't do anything with my kids. The day is just shot! Forget about working nights! Once you finally get your sleep, your days off are gone.

    So tell me, when and why did nurses agree to work 12 hours and how do you all balance your life, family obligations and your days off? Oh, and when you work 12 hours, you lose 4 hours a week. When you work 8 hours, you actually get paid for 80 hours in a payperiod. Why would nurse want to lose 8 hours a payperiod? That really confuses me.

    I have made a decision and am starting a new job as an RN that offers me 8 hour days .... I have to tell you I can't wait. No more back breaking 12 hours for me.

    Thanks for helping me understand this crazy trend in nursing.

    Patrick

    Last edit by RNPATL on Feb 1, '04
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  3. 21 Comments so far...

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    Why I work 12-hour shifts:

    I like stretches of days on and then stretches of days off. If I schedule it right, I can have off for 6, 7, or 8 days in a row.

    With working days in a row, the continuity of care is at optimal levels. I feel like I'm the best nurse I can be when I've cared for a patient for half of their hospital stay.

    You are right about it being a balancing act. Planning is key. I plan meals ahead of time, delegate tasks around the house, study on days off...basically, one must use days off time wisely.

    Where I work, 12-hour people work 3 12's per week for three weeks then 4 12's that fourth week (8 hours that fourth is overtime, so the money works out).

    Lastly, I've had several older nurses say to me: "Do 12 hour shifts when you are young because your body can't take it when you are older."

    Jill (Pa)
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    I'm one of the few nurses at my hospital who work 8-hour shifts, and I wouldn't have it any other way! I tried the 12's for about six months and thought I was gonna die. Maybe it's because I was older when I started out in nursing and had never gotten used to working those long shifts.......all I know is, on most nights I was too exhausted (and my back and my feet were too painful) by about five AM that I hardly cared whether the patients lived or died, and THAT'S no attitude to have!! So I got my doctor to write my nurse-manager a note stating my arthritis made 8-hour shifts a necessity, and even though I'm in better condition now, I'd never go back to 12's.
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    I've worked 12's in order to have more days off. I would work three 12 hour dayshifts a week, and that worked out just fine for me, and I'm 52.

    What I don't do anymore is nightshift because I'm on a medication that is only to be taken at bedtime, and it is a scheduled med, so that means "take pill...go to bed for the night".........not stay up all night.

    Up until this past year, I never minded doing any shift, but I wasn't on that particular medication during my previous years working as a nurse.

    One thing I will never do though is work more than three 12s a week. That would kill me for sure.
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    I just left a position where I was working 12-hour night shifts. On my days off, which were 3 per week, I would sleep half the time to catch up. I was missing my kids games in the evening and felt totally diconnected from life.

    I tried the 12-hours on day shift and simply could not balance home and work, it was very difficult, not to mention the childcare issue. I am a single father and had to arrange childcare for days and nights.

    I am scheduled to start my new position on the 9th ... the hours are 7:30AM to 4PM ..... I am thrilled with the hours and know it will be much better for my life.

    I wonder though, with the nursing shortage the way it is, aren't employers cutting off their nose despite their face when they only allow 12-hour shifts? I am sure there are plenty of people that are in my same situation and would have a terrible time with child care as well as balancing family and work. Given that our profession is dominated by women, I would have thought this to be a bigger issue than it is.

    Thanks for everyone's replies.
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    I work 12 hour days and love it!! I like having the four days off a week. I did rotating for a while, but the nights killed me. Couldn't get enough rest! But I fell into a 12 hour day position and don't plan to give it up until I have to!! LOL As far as losing hours, the facility that I work in doesn't even hire people to work 40 hour weeks anymore. They get hired for "32 hours, flex to 40". Less overtime to pay for that way, I believe. So for me, working the 12 hour shifts gets me 4 more hours a week, and more days off!!
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    I work only 8 hour shifts. By the end of 8 hours I'm cooked!!!! Then again I'm an "old"nurse. In my opinion you see the faster burnout with the younger nurses working 12 hour shifts. Patient care wise I don't see any additional continuity since 90% of the time they are re-splitting the assignment at 3pm so everyone changes a large number of their patient.

    8 hours for me!!!
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    The worst part of my day is getting out of bed, and getting the initial assessments done, so as long as I am at work I would prfer to stay for the 12h, even if it means I needs to rest for my first day off.
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    Patrick,

    I understand what you mean about 12 and 8 hour shifts. I am a fairly new RN (seven months) my job is mostly 12 hour shifts. I oriented the first six weeks with 8 hour shifts and while it was OK, I longed for 12 hour shifts. When 12 hour shifts finally came I felt the weight of the last four hours and how REALLY long the days had become. Now every couple weeks when I work an 8, I feel like I have a field day!
    So, while I don't hate 12 hours, I prefer 8, but I just can't fathom working five days a week as a nurse.
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    There's advantages and disadvantages to working all shifts. I enjoyed working 8 hours and having my evenings free for going to work at 11. But I also like having 4 days off.

    I think management likes 12 hour shifts because it's easier to schedule two people instead of 3. Also it makes it easier to get people to do overtime, when they are going to have 3 days off even if the work an extra day.


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