12 hour shifts...dangerous?

  1. This is a general question, but I was talking to a nurse and was shocked to find out that nurses can be forced to work four hours overtime on top of their twelve hour shifts for a total of sixteen hours. To her, she says this can happen as once a week. I was shocked.

    Even though I like the *idea* of working only three days a week, I have heard that twelve hour shifts are dangerous, and more errors occur from such long, exhausting shifts. On top of that, many hospitals only allow a thirty-minute break for twelve hours. I feel that nurses working twelve hours should get AT LEAST one paid hour break and that hospitals should not be allowed to force nurses to work four hours overtime unless in a severe emergency.

    With that being said, would you support more hospitals instituting 10 hour shifts? They seemed to be a happy medium between five eight-hour shifts and 3 12-hour shifts.

    I'm not saying to eliminate 12 hours all together, but I find it repulsive that hospitals can force nurses to work FOUR HOURS longer than their shift, but won't dare to give them longer and MUCH needed breaks.

    What is your opinion on twelve, sixteen hour shifts? Should sixteen hour shifts be eliminated? Which shift do YOU prefer? And do you find it more dangerous to work a twelve than an eight?


    "Most recent studies cited in the article point to an increase in patient care errors related to successive 12-hour shifts. Geiger-Brown cites one study of 393 nurses on 5,317 shifts who were surveyed anonymously. The odds of making errors by those who reported working more than 12 hours in shifts was three times greater than nurses who reported working 8.5 hour shifts."

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  3. by   whichone'spink
    I've come to hate 12 hour shifts. I am okay until about 4:00, and then I just get ***** with patients, with coworkers, and with everyone else. I haven't made an error, but after 4:00 it just feels like devil may care.
  4. by   TheCommuter
    I worked the Baylor Plan (two 16 hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday) for several years and loved it because the schedule enabled me to have five days off in a row.

    It's either 12-hour shifts or 16-hour shifts for me. There's no way I'd want to bust my butt at the bedside for five 8-hour shifts per week. Four 10-hour shifts doesn't seem much better.
  5. by   hopefulwhoop
    Yeah, 12 hour shifts are a necessary evil. The idea of 3 12s sounded great at first but I've really come to dislike it. I would much rather work 8s. However, that's way too many nights/days out of the week to be at the hospital. I'm just not willing to there that many days. 16s are pretty commonplace at my job, but I've never worked a 16. I do know other nurses who choose to work them though.
  6. by   SaoirseRN
    I work twelves, and I like them. I work two days, 2 nights, and get 5 days off. Yes, the shifts are long, but I wouldn't trade my 5 days off for anything. I don't feel that I'm "dangerous" during those final four hours.

    That said, where I work we are unionized and for a 12 hour shift we get three 35 minute breaks (an hour out of which are paid time). We cannot be forced to work 4 hours overtime, though we can be asked and on occasion I have worked 16 hours. I am tired by the end of that, but better a tired nurse than no nurse at all.
  7. by   MunoRN
    The evidence does not actually say 12 hour shifts are more dangerous than 8 hour shifts. There is one oft-cited study by Ann Rogers that supposedly found an increased risk of errors and injuries in 12 hours shifts, but unfortunately her math skills aren't so good and she was basing this on a "per shift" finding, but of course with shifts of different lengths you have to find a common denominator, which could be errors per hour, and if you look at her data as per hour you actually find a much lower risk of errors with 12 hour shifts. The vast majority of studies that show no increase in errors or accidents with 12 hour vs 8 hour shifts. There's actually a large amount of evidence that overall (not necessarily for everyone, but for the majority), 12 hour shifts are less fatiguing than 8 hour shifts (due to longer, more effective recovery time off from work, particularly for night shift workers).

    When you do start to see a difference is in shifts of 13 hours or more, or in shifts without sufficient breaks, and shifts of any length where "excess of shift" occurred.

    Each state has laws on breaks, usually an unpaid 30 minute break for every 5-6 hours worked, so legally Nurses are usually entitled to two 30 minute breaks per 12 hour shift (in addition to 10-15 minute paid breaks every 2-3 hours). Many states have laws prohibiting mandatory overtime, but not all.
  8. by   martymoose
    my reality is that the 12 hrs sometimes turn into 14 hours, and many times we dont get a break during whole 12 hours. I am changing back to 3 8;s and a 12.Im too old for that no break stuff.

    I like how we're "entitled" to a break. yeah, right. Kinda hard when the charge carries a pt load as bad as yours and cant watch your people, or a new grad would be watching yours. Yes, my floor has very high turnover- hence many new grads.
  9. by   ukjenn231
    I like 12s. Of course my place of employment really doesn't even like 16s, I've heard them decline offers by nurses to stay the extra 4.

    I can understand that maybe more mistakes can be made, but my question is how does having three nurse hand offs a day instead of two impact patient care?
  10. by   classicdame
    Don't care what anyway says, I believe the nurse working 16 hours is a danger to self and others. Research supports that. Mandatory overtime is against the law in Texas except in emergent circumstances. Poor planning is not an emergency
  11. by   IcySageNurse
    What other college educated profession is treated this way? Forcing us to work for 12 hours in a row and giving us a short 30 minute break. We're treated like uneducated common laborers, perhaps worse.
  12. by   ThePrincessBride
    Also want to add that the reason I said PAID lunch break is b/c I see nurses ALL the time having their lunch break interrupted for patient care.

    To the person who says they get THREE 35 minute breaks, where do you work?
  13. by   Altra
    As you can see, OP, state laws and individual employer policies regarding breaks and overtime vary considerably ... you'll need to find out what's applicable where you are.
  14. by   watersamy
    I used to do 12s on the weekends. Loved it. I also don't mind 16s. When i have a day off I almost always pick up an additional shift and pull a 16 hours shift before my day off. Its a great way to pull in the overtime.