How flexible are nursing schedules?

Students General Students


My husband is a teacher, and so we take quite a few week to 3 week trips during the summer. Is it possible to take off time (unpaid of course) and switch shifts, pick up other shifts? Or is it extremely controlled, with your one or two weeks off a year? I plan on nursing only part time, does that make it harder/easier to take off? I'm talking about hospital nursing. Can anyone give me some info? Are there some nursing jobs that are more flexible that way, than others?

Thanks for helping:kiss Heather

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

Like many other general questions that students ask about nursing, the real answer is, "It depends."

As your question suggests you already understand, the amount of time you will be able to take off during the peak summer vacation months will depend on a number of factors. Some of the key factors include:

1. Your specialty (some are busier in the summer than others and therefore limit vacations more)

2. Your geographic location/severity of nursing shortage

3. How much are you willing to "trade" with other staff members and administration to get what you want? For example, you might be able to trade working extra time over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to get a little more time off the following summer. You might be able to trade working extra weekends or nights in exchange for more time off in the summer. You'll have to find out exactly what your unit hospital needs badly enough to be willing to trade you for it.

4. How well do you get along with your co-workers? Will they be willing to make personal trades with you?

5. Do you really have to take 3 weeks off in a row? or can you break it into smaller chunks, which would be easier.

6. If you will be working part time, it may be easier -- but not necessarily.

7. If you are working "per diem," it will probably be easier, but you might need a year or two of experience before the hospital will allow you to work per diem.

These are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.



1,961 Posts

Originally posted by llg

Like many other general questions that students ask about nursing, the real answer is, "It depends."

Excellent answer!

You get out of nursing what you put into it. Some people prefer to make it their life, their every waking moment. Some people make it a second priority, after family and other commitments.

You can work around nursing, or make nursing work around you.

Good luck!


BadBird, BSN, RN

1,126 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care.

When I was full time staff it was not possible to get more than 1 week at a time, you were only allowed to select 1 summer and 1 winter vacation and non around holidays. Now that I am agency I work when I want to and don't worry about planning a vacation 6 months in advance. Remember too when you first start you will be low on the totum poll so that means you get the last vacation picks and they usually aren't the premium weeks. I think a lot of nurses go per diem or casual because of this.


1,024 Posts

Like the others said, it all depends on your hospital. Check out the thread on using your vacation time in general nursing.

I am considered casual, so I can take unlimited days. I just have to be there to work 4 shifts (inc. 2 days on a w'end) to keep my status.


567 Posts

What great info, thanks all. What is casual mean? Is that like on-call? Can you do casual as a new grad? My family is totally my first priority. And we usually do 2-3 weeks because we travel across the US. I am considering Neonatal. Do they have a peak season? (Who knew hospitals had peak seasons?)

Thanks, Heather

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

Yes, neonatal has a peak season-- the summer months. All those people who who cuddle up in the cold winter months have a tendency to make babies that get born in summer and early fall. The ones that come start prematurely start hitting the NICU's around June.

Also, there are a lot of people who drink a little too much at holiday parties and have summer babies. And then there's Valentine's Day ... Need I say more?



415 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

I have been nursing for 10 years and have yet to have been able to take vacation in the summer goes by seniority here. New grads can work casual here (per diem) but I'm not sure about new grads in specialties...


567 Posts

ok, I know I'm really gonna show my ignorance here..........what is per diem? Do you mean agency? I know agency is not a good idea for a new grad. You've all been full of great info! Heather


1,250 Posts

llg...after this snow storm we just had I can only imagine how busy it is going to be in November/December of next year!!

I would agree that a PRN position is probably the best. That way you could tell them that your availability would be limited in the summer.


603 Posts

I've always found it best to let my employer know up front what I wanted from the job (flexibility has always been important for me as a mom -- note, though, that I don't work in a hospital. Even if I did, though, I'd still ask for what I want). If they really want you, they'll work with you.


567 Posts

Okay, so what is a PRN? A part time RN? Or a Per diem RN? And again, what is per diem, and how would you get one of those positions? Is it possible for a new grad to get a per diem position? Thanks, Heather

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