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Taking Vacations

Hey there! I'm a new grad and I luckily have a position lined up. I'm jumping way ahead here, but I'm just curious and trying to get a better idea of how easy/difficult is it to take vacations as a nurse? Obviously I wouldn't be taking time off any time soon, probably not until at least 6 months after starting my new job. My partner and I were discussing the perks of 12 hr shifts, and we would love to be able to go on 3 week long vacations, but I'm worried, would that look poorly? Is it generally frowned upon to take such long vacations or is it more like if you have the PTO, then feel free? I think ideally we would like to take 2-3 week vacations twice a year. How likely would I be allowed to do that? What is your experience taking vacation? How long and how often do you go?

And how much freedom do you have with scheduling your shifts? Can you do 3 in a row at the beginning of a week and 3 in a row at the end of the next week to have time off in between without taking PTO? Is that frowned upon?

I'm just curious how going about vacationing is like as an RN. I appreciate any input! Thanks in advance!

Are you in the US? 

I wish there was a clear answer to give you, but it is completely dependent on your work setting and employer.  Some managers are great about allowing nurses to use their PTO when requested.  Other managers deny PTO requests left and right or say they'll let you know the week before the requested dates if your leave is approved.  Unfortunately, that second option is pretty common.  Many hospitals have times of the year when you can't request leave, like November through New Years and a portion of Summer. If you're the only RN in a clinic setting, it makes it unlikely that you could take off 3 weeks straight since there isn't a full team to take your place. Some units allow flex scheduling where you could easily work the beginning of one week and the end of the next.  Some units schedule based on seniority where the new grad gets whatever shifts are still open, which may be like every other day leftovers. Some units work fixed rotating schedules where you consistently work something like M, T, R one week and F, S, U the next.  Many employers require nurses to pick up a call shift for an extra 8 hours every 2 week period since it technically doesn't make you overtime, so it's not always as clear cut as three 12s. So the short answer is... there is no short answer! Hopefully you end up in a unit with a great nurse-friendly culture that encourages a work-life balance.  

Edited by FacultyRN

13 minutes ago, Wuzzie said:

Are you in the US? 

Yes, I am in the US! 

 

12 minutes ago, FacultyRN said:

I wish there was a clear answer to give you, but it is completely dependent on your work setting and employer.  Some managers are great about allowing nurses to use their PTO when requested.  Other managers deny PTO requests left and right or say they'll let you know the week before the requested dates if your leave is approved.  Unfortunately, that second option is pretty common.  Many hospitals have times of the year when you can't request leave, like November through New Years and a portion of Summer. If you're the only RN in a clinic setting, it makes it unlikely that you could take off 3 weeks straight since there isn't a full team to take your place. Some units allow flex scheduling where you could easily work the beginning of one week and the end of the next.  Some units schedule based on seniority where the new grad gets whatever shifts are still open, which may be like every other day leftovers. Some units work fixed rotating schedules where you consistently work something like M, T, R one week and F, S, U the next.  Many employers require nurses to pick up a call shift for an extra 8 hours every 2 week period since it technically doesn't make you overtime, so it's not always as clear cut as three 12s. So the short answer is... there is no short answer! Hopefully you end up in a unit with a great nurse-friendly culture that encourages a work-life balance.  

Thank you for this! I figured it wouldn't be so clear cut, and I'll just have to see when I get there. I was hoping to hear differently, but regardless this helps paint a better of picture of what it may be like. 

9 minutes ago, caal19 said:

Yes, I am in the US

Then I hate to break it to you but it’s literally going to be decades before you have that much time off available. Typically, as a nurse,  you will accrue 2 wks per year for approximately the first 5 years. This is not given in a lump sum at the beginning of the year,  you accrue it at a certain percentage per hour worked. Basically, you will have to work a year to earn the time off. Your next bump up will be to 3 weeks which just means you earn a higher percentage of time off per hour worked. As far as being able to take more than one week off at a time that will be completely dependent on your employer but I have to tell you, in over 3 decades at this, if there are many people wanting time off it will be less likely that you will be granted extended vacations as you desire. I’m afraid your dream of 2 long vacations per year is going to remain a dream for some time. 

3 minutes ago, Wuzzie said:

Then I hate to break it to you but it’s literally going to be decades before you have that much time off available. Typically, as a nurse,  you will accrue 2 wks per year for approximately the first 5 years. This is not given in a lump sum at the beginning of the year,  you accrue it at a certain percentage per hour worked. Basically, you will have to work a year to earn the time off. Your next bump up will be to 3 weeks which just means you earn a higher percentage of time off per hour worked. As far as being able to take more than one week off at a time that will be completely dependent on your employer but I have to tell you, in over 3 decades at this, if there are many people wanting time off it will be less likely that you will be granted extended vacations as you desire. I’m afraid your dream of 2 long vacations per year is going to remain a dream for some time. 

Damn that's tough 😩 thanks for the honest response though. Now (being in between school and my new job, I have 3 months of freedom) would be the perfect time to get my dream vacation in, but unfortunately given the circumstances, looks like my dream vacation will be a while. 

If I schedule correctly, I can stretch it to two weeks.  It’s usually one week of PTO at a time.  So I load the front end by working 3 in a row, then 4 off, my week of PTO, then work the last 3 days of the following week.  It’s ends up being two weeks.

We get so much PTO per pay period, then 8 hours of PTO for I think it’s 8 holidays per year.  But, it’s also sick leave, and paid time in events of low census.  You’ll have to choose wisely on how to use your time.

49 minutes ago, caal19 said:

Is it generally frowned upon to take such long vacations or is it more like if you have the PTO, then feel free?
 

Hahahahaha🤣 

The last place I worked, people had to "break an arm" and "go on medical leave" to take any sort of vacation. Not only are denials common, but they keep you hanging as long as possible before telling you "NO!"

And in the rare event that you do get a yes ...again, it's last minute and leaves you no time to plan. I've asked for two weeks off and been scheduled only ONE day- right in the center of the two week block. Thanks, guys. That's helpful.

Anyway, maybe some places are better. I have not worked at those places, though. Per diem might be a good option for you if you want tight control over your schedule and don't mind giving up benefits. That's what I'm doing now. 😉 I've also seen nurses go ahead and buy their plane tickets, make their plans, then just quit their job when their time off request is denied. Luckily, it's pretty easy for them to find a new job when they return.

dianah, ADN

Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology.

One facility I worked for 20 years, can't recall how many weeks of vacation were allotted when I hired on, but by the time I "retired" from there, after 21 years, I had 8 weeks paid vacation accruing per year.  Holidays and Sick Leave were separate.  I was often on call, and any OT worked, I could choose to put that time into the PL or Comp Time bank, to draw on later.  Had very fair manager and department heads.

Current facility started with 5 weeks vacation, and that doesn't change with seniority.  Holidays and Sick Leave are separate.  I can accrue Comp Time, however, and if I need to stay late to finish something (with the boss's permission), I can apply that time to Comp Time Accrual.  It will slowly add up.  Have very fair manager and department head.

Another facility in the area: employee accrues SL and PL with each paycheck.  Holidays come out of the PL bank.  If you call in sick, the first 48 hours come out of your PL, and only if you are sick for three days, does SL bank contribute to your paycheck.  Archaic and cruel, if you ask me.  Benefits the employer, not the employee at all.

That said, it is not totally the amount of time one is able to take off, but if your department can tolerate having one employee gone for an extended vacation, without being a detriment to the work load of the department (and one's fellow employees who take up the slack).  It's a two-way street, too, in that I have covered other employees more times than I can recall, -- we all worked short -- knowing that when I'm off, others will work short at times, as well.  Hopefully it's a team thing, and we all give and take.  And having a fair manager is a BIG plus.  Ours understands we need to plan for flights or reservations, and doesn't keep us hanging, waiting for vacation approval.  It's always best to get requests in as soon as possible, so manager can plan. 

HiddencatBSN, BSN

Specializes in Peds ED.

I’ve never worked anywhere that would accommodate 3 weeks off at a time for vacation regardless of how much time you had accrued. Different facilities have had different levels of how hard it is to get vacation times you want. My current job allows us to take 1 week guaranteed in the Summer (but we pick the week based on seniority and no more than 2 RN may select the same week) and 1 in the fall-Spring with the same rules. If we have time we can request other vacation times but there’s the possibility it can be canceled last minute if there’s a need (haven’t seen this actually happen tho). 

If a place self schedules it’s possible to cluster your shifts in a way that gives you time off without needing PTO- I could get 8 days in a row off like this but it meant for an exhausting schedule around the 8 days, but my first year in nursing I took no vacation time while having vacations. 

I work with a few people who do take 3 weeks off every few years to go back to visit family in India or the Philippines. They save up their vacation hours, work overtime and schedule the trip when other staff are not taking vacation. You are more likely to get a vacation approved in March than during the Summer. 

You don't need 3 weeks to travel. Lots of us travel, or we used to. Plenty to be seen on shorter trips.

Using your PTO and clustering your days depends on the unit needs and management. Read the PTO policy to thoroughly understand your  benefits.  Enter your requests as soon as you have accumulated enough time. 

Two weeks off should be fairly easy as you have 4 days off every week! You will be surprised how fast the PTO accumulates and how you can finagle your schedule to maximize it.

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology.

It depends where you work and your manager. My old employer we never had an issue with vacations other than you couldn't take a vacation between Thanksgiving and New Years. I worked 3 12's then and it was very easy to stretch a 2 week vacation into almost a month off. Does it look bad? Absolutely not. That is one of the perks of working 3 12's. We also got 8 hours of PTO every pay period.

My current employer we have no problems with vacations and I get 5 weeks of vacation a year but it is a little harder to turn 2 weeks into almost a month of. 

Thanks everyone for the replies! I appreciate it. Gives me a better idea of what to expect not just from my employer, but if I were to go elsewhere, what it's generally like in the profession.

11 hours ago, OUxPhys said:

I worked 3 12's then and it was very easy to stretch a 2 week vacation into almost a month off. Does it look bad? Absolutely not. That is one of the perks of working 3 12's. We also got 8 hours of PTO every pay period.

My current employer we have no problems with vacations and I get 5 weeks of vacation a year but it is a little harder to turn 2 weeks into almost a month of. 

OuxPhys, would you mind elaborating on how you were able to stretch a 2 week vacation into almost a month off? And what your vacations look like now that your current employer offers 5 weeks a year?

22 minutes ago, caal19 said:

Thanks everyone for the replies! I appreciate it. Gives me a better idea of what to expect not just from my employer, but if I were to go elsewhere, what it's generally like in the profession.

OuxPhys, would you mind elaborating on how you were able to stretch a 2 week vacation into almost a month off? And what your vacations look like now that your current employer offers 5 weeks a year?

Week 1: Work the first three days

Week 2: off

Week 3: off

Week 4: Work the last three days

It turns into 22 days off instead of 14, but it's brutal. If you want to torture yourself even more, you can go straight to the airport after a 12 hour shift and return just in time to get from the airport back to work. I guess that would be 24 days ...sort of.

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology.

27 minutes ago, Sour Lemon said:

Week 1: Work the first three days

Week 2: off

Week 3: off

Week 4: Work the last three days

It turns into 22 days off instead of 14, but it's brutal. If you want to torture yourself even more, you can go straight to the airport after a 12 hour shift and return just in time to get from the airport back to work. I guess that would be 24 days ...sort of.

What this poster said haha. I can take two weeks off back to back but now instead of 22 days off it's more like 18.

1 hour ago, Sour Lemon said:

Week 1: Work the first three days

Week 2: off

Week 3: off

Week 4: Work the last three days

It turns into 22 days off instead of 14, but it's brutal. If you want to torture yourself even more, you can go straight to the airport after a 12 hour shift and return just in time to get from the airport back to work. I guess that would be 24 days ...sort of.

 

1 hour ago, OUxPhys said:

What this poster said haha. I can take two weeks off back to back but now instead of 22 days off it's more like 18.

Oh okay so just to clarify, that would be taking 6 shifts off/using 72 hours of PTO? Did I do that right? And if that's the case, you would still have PTO left over if let's say you accrue 5 weeks of PTO/year? So you could actually take off for more than 6 shifts or do you just set the limit at 6 so it's not so hard on the unit?

I must have an awesome employer. In my first year of working as a new grad, I took a 2 week long vacation, which used 6 days of PTO (which I saved from 2 years of working as a CNA). I also was a CNA on a different unit, so I had a different director/ boss. So I do not think me being a CNA there affected their decision to let me have a trip.

The way the scheduling works is that we all can choose our preferred days to be scheduled. We also get to choose 5 days per pay period to choose to have off. I usually got the days I chose. I scheduled myself to allow for a week long trip to New York by working 4 days in a row, 1 day off, then the last 2. I did this cause I didn't want to use my PTO that time.

 

38 minutes ago, caal19 said:

 

Oh okay so just to clarify, that would be taking 6 shifts off/using 72 hours of PTO? Did I do that right? And if that's the case, you would still have PTO left over if let's say you accrue 5 weeks of PTO/year? So you could actually take off for more than 6 shifts or do you just set the limit at 6 so it's not so hard on the unit?

You would be taking six 12 hour shifts off ...72 hours of PTO. Most people who do things this way do it because they're not allowed to take off "longer". The employer still gets their full time hours out of the employee before the employee hits the road.

A trick I learned by making the schedule is if you do nights and days try to give people a 4 day weekend off when going from days to nights.  So they work Thursday days, off at 1900, then off F-S-S-M and not back till Tuesday night.  This gives them Tuesday off to travel back instead of Monday so they have the extra night.  One of my more recent jobs was for the military and the active duty folks couldn't be off more than 4 days without taking leave so this got them a nice mini-vacation without using leave days.  

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