8 hour shift vs. 12 hour shift - your opinion...

Nurses General Nursing


Hello. I am a Columbia University student nurse. Some of my classmates and I are preseting a debate as to whether the 8 or 12 hour shift is better. We are hoping to hear it from you - the experts! Please let us know which shift you prefer and why. Tell us what you think are the pros and cons of either or both the 8 and 12 hour shift. Even if you prefer one to the other, and you think there may be something to say (be it good or bad) about the shift you don't prefer, please let us know! All information will be presented at the presentation. If you don't or do want your name disclosed, please specify. Thank you so much for participating. : ) Tova, CUNS


101 Posts

Here's my opinion. I've worked afternoons 3-11:30 FT...and I've worked nights 12 hours.

I'm happy there's the flexibility. And that nurses have the choices. If I'm going to work fulltime. My preference is 12 hours. That way I have to work less days a week. And it also decreases the driving time. Going to work 4 days....instead of 5 days a week.

Working 8 hours F.T. on afternoons...didn't work well socially for me. My dh at the time was working days (6-7 days a week) So we weren't seeing much of each other.

I know some nurses prefer 8 over 12 hour days. It's a preference choice. I'm happy nurses have the choice.

True- it's great we have a choice. But, for your research efforts, here's the opposing viewpoint: I prefer 8 hr shifts. I have a 40 minute commute to work each way...that's 9 hrs & 20 minutes each day (barring unforseen traffic or overtime).Most "fulltime" positions in my area are 4 shifts/week anyway.Very rarely do the local hospitals offer the permanent fulltime 5 day/week.The last time I did 12 hour shifts was several years ago in clinicals. The commute time was 1 hr each way...that's a 14 hour day.I was too tired at the end of the shift to do anything but eat & go to bed (sometimes not even the eating).I have heard that the continuity of care is better for the pt in a 12 hour shift (but not if the nurse is too tired to think). Somedays my brain is pretty fried after just 8 hours! LOL. Therefore, count my vote in favor of the 8 hr shifts.

Mary H.

16 Posts

I have been an RN for 26 years. During some times of my career, 8 hour shifts worked better. I worked graveyard, and I had time to be involved with my daughter's school, go to school myself, or just play. During some times of my career, 12 hours worked well. Some 12-hour schedules are like having a week off every 2 weeks!! I feel the continuity of care is the same in most settings, although in units or areas with a 2-3 day average LOS, the continuity may be better with 12s, as the patient could potentially be cared for by fewer staff. The options are one thing that's really nice about nursing as a career. You can usually go anywhere you want to go and find a job, many times with the schedule you want, and at a pay rate that allows you to support a family.


20 Posts

I think there's pros and cons to both 8s and 12s, plus you have to consider the type of nursing you are doing.

12s are great for most people personally and for families...more time away from the job and more time with the family or for yourself. Also if the job setting is mostly low key the 12s are too hard to pull. On the other hand if you are in a high stress, fast paced setting the 12s are very tiresome and i feel the last 4 hours or so of the shift that the patients may begin to suffer due to your fatigue. I've worked both, in slow pace and fast paced settings and personally I liked 12s with the slow pace, but felt overly exhausted doing 12 hours at a face pace. I often wondered if I was giving my patients my best at the end of those shifts. Sometimes I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes opened to drive home, forget about eating .... it was a hot bath and straight to bed! LOL


1 Post

I work in critical care and feel that 12 hour shifts best suit this environment. Continuity of care is very important when patients are very sick with multi treatments occuring, leaving room for information to be missed or errors to occur. It's great to follow the same nurse for 2-3 shifts taking care of the same patients. You work as a team to provide the best possible outcome for your patients.

On a personal note I only have to work 3 12hr shifts per week to be considered fulltime at my hospital. This is very beneficial during the summer because you can schedule your shifts together and end up with 5 days off in a row. It's a vacation without using your vacation time.

Good luck on your project!



9 Posts

I locally worked 5 11-7 8's for 8 years and thought that was the greatest. I then changed to 12's for 7p-7a, and what a difference, to the better, this made in my life..Especially for working graveyards. I now have more of a life, and now have more time for school and household stuff. For 10 years now, I commute 61 miles one way, and the 12's are the best. I am less fatigued at home and very active at work. I am working on my advanced degree, and still I feel I never want to go back to the 5 8's to be considrered full time. 12's...the best!!

My opinion is, since I NEVER seemed to get away from the hospital in less than 9-10 hours when I worked 8 hour shifts (I was usually charge nurse), I MUCH preferred the 12 hour shifts...


[This message has been edited by bshort (edited February 23, 2000).]


21 Posts

I just switched jobs. I was working 8 hour shifts, 4 a week. Now i work 3 12 hour shifts. What a difference in my personal life. I actually have more time to do things. I have always worked nights and that 4th night a week was a killer and i did nt realize how much until I didnt do it anymore. I wont go back to 4-- 8 hour shifts. There also seems to be more continuity of care. I give report to one RN in the AM and get the same pt back from her later, so there is none of that "oh i didnt do that because i wasnt aware of it".

I can say to her this is what i seen on nights and i tried to do this to help the pt lets try to continue this and see what happens and when i come back that night there is results, one way or another.

Also at our hospital we only have straight nights and day/night rotators so all day people do night some times so they know what its like to do the shift. We all know the limits of the shift. I think its a good thing having days do nights occasionally, it keeps people from having what i call "dayitis"- that is the disease some people get when they work straight days and think night nurses are stupid. But thats another issue.




30 Posts

Hello...I am currently working 12 hour shifts 7pm to 0730 am. Although I love the time off, I personally feel that 12 hour shifts are unsafe... especially on nights. I think toward the end of the day, it is easy to be careless because of fatigue. And although I readily admit to being guilty of this occasionally, I do not think working 3 days in a row is safe on 12 hour shifts, again due to lack of sleep, concentration, or whatewver. I am so fatigued when I get home that I am brain-dead. I know that many nurses love their 12 hour shifts...I hate them and wish our hospital would reinstitute some 8 hour shifts.

Another thing i dislike about them is that on night shift, half your days off are spent sleeping, so I never feel like I have had four days off....

My last complaint is continuity of care...True, the patient now has only 2 nurses a day instead of 3...however, with shorter stays and varying assignments, a patient seldom has the same nurse two days in a row on a Med-Surg unit. I think that the idea of 12 hour shifts fostering continuity of care is just that, an idea.


8 Posts

I've worked 8's, 10's and 12's. Personally, I like the longer shifts. So does my spouse. My patients like it too. They know who their nurse is...I like being able to follow them through. It provides good continuity.


294 Posts

I love my 12 hour nights! I work in critical care (currently travelling so in several kinds of units) and agree that 12's work well in this environment. There is more continuity between nurses (less to get lost in multiple shift reports) and you have more time to get to know your patients. Out of a shift, you spend 45 min to an hour in report (taking and giving), 1/2 to an hour at break (if you're lucky! wink.gif) That is up to 1/4 of an 8 hour shift away from the bedside. Working 12's you get to spend more of your workweek at the bedside- I personally feel this means your patients will tell you more about what they need, both verbally and nonverbally. I never had time to read a chart working 8's. Working 12's it did happen sometimes. 12's also mean less shift report time per patient day- more nursing time for patients. It works well for me personally as well- 3 days a week. Working 4 10's right now and the difference is obvious.

One bad thing about 12's- there is a huge flurry of activity right in the last 90 minutes of the shift. Docs come around stealing your charts, labs have to be sent, reported and treated; and unless there are foleys involved everyone has to go as soon as they are woken up by the intern. smile.gif All this when you're at your most tired. Maybe 4-4 or 12-12 instead of 7-7? Any thoughts?


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