Quote from JohnWatson
1. My wife is primarily concerned that nurses work very crazy hours (lots of overtime) and because of this, they do not get to see their spouses and children on any regular basis. I have read on a couple places (including on this forum) that most nurses working at hospitals usually work three 12-hour shifts a week (I am interested in working in ER/trauma, OB, ICU, or OR). Can anyone elaborate on what their work schedule is like? Does your shift change often? Do you work the same days every week? Is there a lot of mandatory overtime?
I work 8 hour shifts. My facility discourages overtime, so I hardly ever get it. Our schedules are on two week repeating cycles. For example, one might work 3 on, 2 off, 4 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off. This cycle repeats over and over, so that you have a predictable schedule. We have to work every other weekend.
2. I have read that some nurses may be on call. To what extent are most nurses on call? I have read about the shortage in staffing for nurses. Does this happen often?
I've never been on call. Sometimes the staffing office will call on my day off to see if I can come in and work, but if I don't feel like working, I just don't answer the phone. If I feel like working, I pick up and tell them I'll come in. We are not required to come in on our days off, and often they will offer on call pay as an enticement, even though we are not really on call.
3. My wife is afraid that I will not get to spend any holidays with the family if I become a nurse. I have read that nurses are required to work holidays (which makes sense). How are holidays usually scheduled in hospitals? Is this seniority based?
You will have to work some holidays. At my facility, we are not required to work every holiday. Our union contract requires that each unit develop an equitable policy for determining holiday rotations. Typically, it goes something like, work Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve but have Christmas and New Year's Eve off. Then the next year, you would work the opposite. At my facility, it is not seniority based. Everybody rotates.
4. How much vacation do you usually start with as a nurse?
We earn a percentage of an hour for each hour we work. This is called "Paid Time Off" and it goes into a bank. You use your PTO for vacations, for sick days, and if you get called off for low census, you can choose to take PTO or not.
5. Another concern of my wife's is that I will constantly be around sick individuals who may have infectious diseases/viruses. I personally don't feel as worried about this, because I am sure there are many precautions taken and many preventative measures in place to keep hospital staff safe and healthy. Do any of you get sick more often due to your work?
We use "transmission based precautions" to protect ourselves and our other patients. Of course, proper hand hygiene is the single most important thing you can do. Vaccinations are also made available to staff members. I get my seasonal flu shot every year at work, at no cost to me, and this year I got the H1N1 vaccine, again at no cost to me. I personally do not get sick any more often because of my job. I am constantly washing and gelling, and probably get sick *less* often than when I worked in a non-healthcare related field.
6. Finally, we are concerned about the cost of my nursing education. At present, I am looking into a CCNE accredited BSN program at my local state university. After looking at the curriculum, I would still have about one year's worth of prerequisites to complete before I could apply to the clinical portion of the program. I am meeting an adviser to ask more questions in a couple weeks. What types of additional costs/fees should I expect while going through nursing school?
I worked, took out student loans, and received tuition assistance from my employer, and still I was barely making it. Now that I'm working as an RN, I'm certainly not wealthy and I do have student loan payments, but I do not have to worry about not being able to pay my mortgage.