Help! Thinking about changing field and from 12's to 8's

Nurses Stress 101


Hi everyone,

I have been a nurse in a Level II Nursery for nearly two years now, hired in from before my graduation. It was the Dream Job, and it is amazing. I truly love it for the most part. I work 12 hour day shifts which I love (even when they turn into 16 hour days) because I LOVE having the 4 days off a week. I am an extreme introvert, and childfree, so the schedule really works for me. However, my anxiety levels are rising. (You can skip this backstory if you like, the TLDR at the end is the meat of the question.)

As a still fairly new nurse it's taken me this long to build an admittedly still-shaky, very base foundation of confidence in my skill level. There is a lot on our shoulders, we're a pretty small hospital and while my entire floor is NRP trained, the nursery nurse is often alone as the only nursery nurse, and we attend all deliveries alone without a pediatrician in the hospital at all times. Obviously, some deliveries go bad, and resuscitating a newborn is TERRIFYING with an entire floor of nurses, let alone by yourself. I tell them often how uncomfortable I am with being the only nursery nurse on my shift, and they do try to have someone with me, but it's not always.

There are some corporate changes happening in our hospital, and our manager, who is the only person that advocates for us, is leaving, adding to the overall general anxiety of our entire floor. Employee morale is definitely at an all time low for ALL of us. I don't think they care at all that if something goes wrong, it's MY LICENSE and MY CAREER and MY LIVELIHOOD on the line. We're losing good nurses left and right because of the general unease and burnout we've all got going, and some absolute bullsh** pay changes. (Not to mention all the experienced nurses are the ones leaving first because they're the preceptors and they're bringing in new hires that are making higher pay than the people training's not flying well.) It just feels like a sinking ship every day right now.

I've been trying to not let my emotion and the low overall morale influence me to make a stupid decision to make a career change from a job I generally love, especially if it's not the right thing to do, but my anxiety is getting SO BAD. I've recently had a bad couple of shifts pretty close together, one where we had no further control outside of what we'd done to attempt to stabilize, we thankfully got it shipped to a bigger ped hospital in time, but I was standing there watching the clock tick and watching that baby slowly crash and burn while we waited on the helicopter. Then in that same week-ish we had a communication error kind of all around, and nothing bad happened, but it gave me a scare, and I was just starting to feel a little more confident again.

Even going in to that delivery, I knew it was going to go badly and I was as prepared as I could be, everything was ready to go. I actually had a set of hands that day, one of our PRN nurses, that's never liked me from the get-go and she doesn't trust me. She never works, so she's never seen me work to even learn or start to trust me or my ability. Leaving out details for privacy obv, but she tried to blame the entire thing on me when it was a 4-way miscommunication between 3 nurses and a doctor in a hectic delivery. She's the type to stand and watch you drown instead of lifting a finger to help, just to see how you sink or swim, to prove a point (When there's a very vulnerable patient on the line, she disgusts me, tbh.) and that's exactly what she did.

She's also the type to sprinkle passive aggressive statements about your ability wherever she walks, to twist the knife in your gut when you've done everything you can. She did two of those type of jabs after this overall harmless mishap. I let the first one fly, again, because I know she's a terrible human and I've just accepted this, but the second time she was just straight up personally cruel to me, to the point that I had to walk away, and it has totally destroyed the very last of that foundation of confidence I had built. (I hope she sleeps well at night knowing she's the type of nasty bully they warn you about in nursing school. She's the straw that's broken the camel's back--literally making me question all my life and career choices.)

Anyway. The doctor was insistent the blame was on him and I told him it was just a miscommunication between all of us and I told the other nurse I wanted to type up a safety review report/debrief thing on it WITH her, like we would in any case like that, and told her so, and she went and did it behind my back with no debriefing, just the sniping, and without so much as asking for any of my input on MY DELIVERY. She even grabbed her monitor and turned the screen to hide it from me as I walked past her to throw something away as she was entering it into the system. I was already so angry I was shaking the entire rest of the shift, but that just threw me over the edge. She stepped literally all over my toes and was unprofessional, and she's honestly a monster of a human, who I very rarely have to work with, but now I'm wondering if maybe she's just /right/ that I'm not cut out for this, like she's thought since day one, when I was hired in.

I did go to our manager about the situation and she agreed that what she did was totally not okay and the way she spoke to me was cruel and it's going to be addressed..but I honestly don't care about that so much. I made it through the day and about 5 steps out the door before I burst into tears, then I literally slept for 12 hours and laid in bed for another 16 hours putting applications in ...everywhere. The next day I had to work after a couple off, I was just sitting there after report on the verge of a panic attack, and this constant feeling of dread is coming back more and more frequently. When I'm home, when I'm there. When I'm laying in bed and start thinking about having to go to work the next day. I looked at my apple watch and my resting heart rate was 110 just literally sitting at my computer after a non-stressful report with my favorite coworker. It feels like there's an elephant sitting on my chest constantly, I'm having heart palpitations, and I just feel like I'm on the verge of a full blown panic attack at any moment a lot of the time. (I have discussed with my Doctor. it is anxiety, not a heart issue. He gives me a limited supply of anti anxiety meds but I try to take them very rarely, and obviously only at home.)

TLDR: after that looong backstory: I'm thinking about getting away from bedside/hospital nursing and going to a pediatric clinic so I don't have such urgent situations on only my hands so often, and the one BIG THING holding me back aside from the fear of change/making the wrong choice, is switching from 3-12's to 5-8's, like, I'm literally sitting here in tears thinking about losing those extra two days off because I truly need them so bad with the physical exhaustion and emotional and mental strain, on top of being such an introvert. Has anyone that actually LIKES 12s (single, childless - moms seem to like the 8s a lot more.) been able to make the transition back to 8s? And thrive? Or am I going to hate my life even more than I do right now? I'm having a really hard time, my strongest support and my mentor is the manager that's leaving, and I'm feeling very hopeless and lost and I don't know where to turn.

If anyone made it through that entire thing, thank you for taking the time to read it, I'd love to hear what you think about changing from 3 days a week to 5.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

Paragraphs will make this much more readable.

Paragraphs will make this much more readable.

My head started spinning way before I made it to the end. I agree that paragraphs would help.

Thanks guys, sorry about that. Edited with paragraphs and shortened a bit too.

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

That's much better---thank you.

For what it's worth, I never adjusted to 12-hour days (or nights). Eight-hour shifts were all I could handle, and I only worked four days a week. Do you think you could make it financially if you worked a four-day week? I had a great schedule where I worked two days on, one day off, two days on, and two days off. It helped me last at least a year longer in Med/Surg than I probably would have if I'd continued with 12-hour shifts.

I've never done clinic work, but I imagine it's pretty fast-paced. It will be stressful, because you've got to make sure patients are roomed quickly and prepared for the provider, assist with procedures, arrange for follow-up appointments and put discharge paperwork together, plus whatever duties may be assigned to you. I've recently been a patient in a surgery clinic and those nurses and MAs run their butts off. That being said, it might just be what you're looking for. Good luck!

I have gone from 12+ hour shifts to 8's and honestly I feel better overall - not so tired, stressed. No call/no weekends/no holidays/no nights. Granted, working 12's does give you more time off but at the same time, for me anyway, the time off wasn't really quality time because I was either rushed to get home, get to bed to get up early for another shift, overall exhausted or anxious on my days off about going back. I don't mind working and working hard and I know nursing is stressful but I also know that nursing has changed exponentially - especially in the past 10 years or so - and at least the hospitals in my area stay right on the line of staffing being unsafe for the nurses and the patients. Nurses use to take 5 maybe 6 patients on the units, now 6-7 and possibly 8 if short. Techs are few and far between as most get burnt out real quick. Having to take call is also the norm now for all units as well as mandatory additional shift sign up. Management has not yet figured out this is why nurses are leaving the hospitals/profession in general, this is why turn over is high which costs more money, creating more staffing issues. They have not realized that the majority of nurses want a work/life balance, most are not willing to dedicate the majority of their lives to work so the problems continue. New grads are being eaten alive and burning out fast as well. You can always go back to 12 hours if the 8's end up not being what you want.

I worked 12 hour shifts for 6 years and loved it...then our hospital switched us to 8' was awful. I felt like I was living at work never got to see my husband or friends. Worked 3/4 weekends, impossible to get vacation time. Stay with the 12s if you can

I've done both before I got married/had child. LOVED 8's. I actually bought a jet ski and took it out after work to distress on the water when I worked 8s....can't do that now, I'd be shark bait. I worked out at the gym after work during the winter. The 12s gave me anxiety. There's no time to relax during the day and if you have several in a row the first day off is spent sleeping from utter exhaustion of the shifts just finished.

Specializes in public health, women's health, reproductive health.

I changed from 12s to 8s. I have no weekends, night or holidays, though. I do like it. I thought it would be a hard adjustment but it wasn't.

Specializes in ED.

I'm going to be the odd duck in the pond, but, I'm wondering if you need some extra support to stay in the job you love doing? I am an introvert as well and it took me a long time to be able to stick up for myself but I think I do so much better now. It can happen. Maybe some more classes in handling acute cases? Also I think you will find that when you stick up for yourself with this woman, you will find that she will not bite back as much at you. Some people tend to attack those who they feel are vulnerable, and you probably are. Allow your manager to help you strike a boundary with this woman and don't put up with her sh*t.

Specializes in ED, ICU, Prehospital.


You are not alone---and I certainly could never, EVER do the job that NICU/nursery/OB RNs do. It's not even a matter of licensing or such---it's a matter of how I would absolutely never be able to handle it if I made a mistake. My hat is off to you and all who do your job.

About 12s to 8s. Most of my colleagues have heard me say, very clearly, that I would like to meet the person who thought that up---and flush them out the airlock, without a space suit. I have zero idea where this is beneficial, and I believe whole heartedly that this is a large part of "burnout", turnover, PTSD, injuries and a good number of the other negative things we are experiencing in nursing.

Even 4 10s is better than 3 12s. It's never 12. It's an hour to get ready, 45 minute drive, 30 min report, 12 hour/no lunch/no breaks/ridiculous demands, 30 minute report IF YOUR RELIEF SHOWS UP ON TIME, working over bc of this or that---another 45 minute drive home.....and 6 hours to sleep before you get up and do it again.

UNSAFE. Mentally as well as physically. Anybody who shoots back with....butbutbutbut the FOUR DAYS OFF!!! Is lying. I will say it. LYING. The first day is sleep day. "catch up day". And you never catch up. Stressed to the bone physically---these microinjuries add up.

Have you worked a "princess shift" before? I did a few while I was between jobs. It was heaven. You get there, you get some stuff have your 30 minute break....and you go home. You can be with your family for a few hours before you have to hit the sheets...and still get a full 8 of sleep if you want to.

What you are describing in your work and personal life is PTSD. You are an introvert. As am I. I like my alone/private time. 16 hours of PEOPLE is quite enough, thankyouverymuch. Can you go part time? Can you afford that? Even working 2 days per week may help you stay in the job you love.

This woman. Like you said. She never works and is a jerk. That's not on you. People know, your colleagues know. They're not blind. If you stay in this unit...and cut down your hours for awhile to see if that is what it is....I would go to the NM about her, carefully tell them that this RN is making for a hostile environment FOR YOU. If that doesn't work, I would definitely document, and go to HR. Hostile work environments are common and everyone shrugs and says, "well, that's just her/him blowing off steam". It's not acceptable. ESPECIALLY in the unit you are in. These babies need POSITIVITY, not some jerko who can't stay professional.

I am changing careers. Just so you know. I was doing NP--and direct care---but I have since changed my mind. I am leaving nursing altogether, and returning to my former profession---which I have been thankful I never allowed my license to lapse. Nursing has become---well----not nursing. I don't know what it is anymore, but it certainly is NOT nursing.

Funny thing...I was recently offered a get my feet back into my former profession....and I will be making $5 more per hour than I do as an RN. Had I stayed in that profession---I would now be making $15-20 more per hour than I do now as an experienced RN. As a NEW GRAD RN, and as a NEW GRAD FORMER PROFESSION....New grad RNs make $20-22/hr where I am from, and New Grad Other Professions make $28/hr and up (depending on the facility acuity). Scheduled hourly patients. Patient care, challenging, technical---and 8s if you want them....12s were shot down as RIDICULOUS abuse of manpower. THREE SHIFTS, people. THREE SHIFTS. Nursing is abusive from the very basic hourly requirement.

So. If I were you? Honestly? I would take a pay cut and get those hours under control....because you will never "not have" your NICU experience. It's yours. You can use it or not, whatever you want. But you cannot go on feeling this way. See a counselor and sort out what your PRIORITIES are.

Good luck to you.

+ Add a Comment