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It usually depends on the availability and the needs of the unit and the policies of the unit at the time. So this varies from hospital to hospital. You can get a general idea from our responses, but what you find on your first job will be unique to that particalar place and time.
We self-schedule, and this includes new grads, and we have to work every other weekend. We have 8 and 12-hour shifts. In years I've never seen a new grad pick 8-hour shifts, they always pick 12's. We do have people who self-schedule only weekends, but are part-timers.
It really depends on the place, and on what you are willing to do and the precedent you set when you start. If you say yes, they will always ask, if you feel guilted into working every weekend, they will accomodate. If you say you don't work nights, and they can convince you once, you will be doing nights. It's up to you to set the precedence. There are places that it is easy to pick up days, because there are more staff on and they call in sick and/or need vacation time filled. PRN works well if you don't need the benefits of full time work, as you know they will always need help. Some nurses prefer nights, or evenings, so work the majority of those.
I really think that it is up to the nurse, one thing about the shortage, they sort of have to work with us to have us, as it is an employees market right now.
In our unit we work 12hr shifts. Some of us do days, some nights and some variable... 7-7. We self schedule and work every third weekend and every third holiday. It's really not that bad because most of the people that I work with are willing to trade or pick up a shift here and there. I'm only budgeted for one 12 hr shift per week ( I can basically always pick up but I'm only commited to one so I have no weekend or holiday commitment which is also nice). We also can split shifts if it's slow and there are "no work" hours to be given out. Then we only work 6 hr shifts. After working 12s, 6 is like a vacation.
We self schedule. We have to do 2 weekends out of 6 - any 2. Holidays are separated into sets, and you have to one of each set (for example, Easter or Victoria Day). We have to do a certain percentage of shift work. Some people chose to only do shift work. Some do 8's, some do 12's. In short 0 we have a lot of flexiblity and most people are able to get what they want.
usually after completing orientation (a few weeks long if you are a new grad), you work 3 12 hour shifts. a lot of places self-schedule, which is great, but require that you work 1 weekend/month. i like working 7am-7pm, as it does not screw up my sleep schedule. i love, love, love having 4 days off a week and prefer working three in a row. i swear, the nurses schedule is one of the nicest perks. also, if your hospital lets you, if money is tight often there is incentive to work overtime. who could ask for more?