Why 12 hr. shifts???

Nurses General Nursing


I would like to return to working in a hospital setting but what I've noticed about most job opportunities is that they are always for 12 hour shifts.

After having already worked 12 hrs before on a med/surg floor, for me, these shifts nearly KILL me. My mind and body shut down after 8 hours and those extra 4 or 5 hours are especially taxing when I am so worn out. I burn out quickly. Having two extra days off each week is little comfort when I know that it will take two days just to recuperate.

As a single mother of two it will be difficult to find daycare and after-school care for my children.

My question is, why aren't hospitals offering 8 hr. shifts as an option? Perhaps part of this nursing shortage could be resolved if nurses had scheduling options.

I've also wondered why more hospitals aren't offering on-site daycare? Most nurses are women (duh), many are single, and inevitably, many have children.

Any thoughts, comments or solutions?

Specializes in Hospice, Critical Care.

I love 12-hour shifts. You can work SUN-MON-TUE of one week and THU-FRI-SAT the next...you will then have 8 days off in a row without taking a single vacation day. Not that I arrange it that way often but it's nice when you want to. I managed to get 15 days off in a row taking just one week's vacation time because of 12-hr shifts. My body is accustomed to them now. A 12-hour workday feels normal to me; the nights are still a trial but I do what I must.

The ability to work 12-hour shifts is what holds me back from looking for other employment. Work 5 days in a week?! ACK!

Ten hour days sound okay, but those seem rarer than 8's. Do most of ya'll get paid for 40 hrs when you work 3-12's and if not, when do you go into OT?


Twelves are easier to schedule. You only have 14 shifts a week to cover instead of 21.

You get more time off, but if you are like me you are more tired!

We did 12s for the past 10 years or so.

First week: off Sun | work MT |off WTh| work F Sa Sun

2nd week: work S | off MT |work WTh| off F Sa Sun

That's 36 hours one week, 48 the next. We got overtime for over 40 hrs a week. I guess that wouldn't matter in the army would it?

It was less gasoline for the car, fewer uniforms to wash and less lunch money to be spent.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

HOWEVER, I lived a 50 mile commute away. So for a 7a-7p shift...I got up at 0430 left at 0530 and if traffic was ok made it to work by 0645.

IF I got off on time (LOL, ROFLMAO!!!) I would leave at 1930, drive home, get there at 2045..eat a little, watch some tv, maybe do some laundry so I got to bed about 2230.

12 hour shifts were definitely NOT beneficial to my health and well being.

hello majic,

i to worked noon to midnight for a while, but i will never do it again. IT SUCKED. i never got off at midnight it was always 1am or 2am in the morning before i was out of there. but now work 6pm to 6am and love it. my family is also happier.

Hey Susie Q,

no we dont get paid for 40 hours, but we do get weekend and night shift diff, which adds up , and if we work an extra shift we get paid for what they call a bonus shift. 3.00 more an hour for LPN,s and 5.00 for RN,s, and any thing over our regular scheduled shifts is overtime. so its OT and bonus pay. so it all works out in the end.. wouldnt work 8,s again ever. thanks alicia :)

Hey to all you working Mom's who are pulling 12 hour shifts at night...tell me how you do it?! :) I need all the tricks you care to share. I have a 3&5 year old and one on the way! :) Do you get much sleep? Do you pick your kids up from school? Please send words of encouragement?! I have not worked long hours like this in quite sometime and I am a new grad. My husband and I are thinking that if I work weekends then he can be home with the kids to help out. Did any of you breastfeed while working the night shift....pump I mean. I hope that isn't to personal of a question! Anyway, please share your wisdom!




The first and foremost thing you need to do is get a beeper or cell phone. Then you ONLY give the number to those who may need you in an emergency, ie: babysitter, school, etc. (wherever you kids are) When you go to bed, SHUT OFF YOUR PHONE and keep the beeper or cell with you. Make it clear right from the get-go that you are not to be awakened during the day unless someone is bleeding profusely! I had a friend who's husband would wake her up at noon to see if she wanted any lunch when she first started working nights! I know it's stupid, but people just don't think. That;s why you have to make sleep a priority if you plan to do this for any length of time. ALSO, a background "white noise" machine is very helpful.

A good babysitter/daycare is the next most important thing, and not as easy to find! I was blessed and very lucky that way. As for school, whenever possible I did not get up to pick up my kids - take advantage of that extra half hour or hour of sleep the school bus gives you!

I myself did not work nights and breastfeed at the same time, but I know plenty of nurses who have done it successfully.

The whole business of working weekends when your husband is home is great in some ways, sucks in others. It's good for the kids when they are young though, and that's why we (alot of us, anyway) do this crazy shift in the first place, right? I was lucky, I have always slept fine during the day - some people just never get the hang of it. I know. BUT, there are plus sides to working nights too - no "suits" around, and I have always found nights to be a much more cohesive team. And of course, every now and then you get to go to the kid;s school stuff that you might not have gotten to otherwise.

Good Luck!

Linda - a 13 year night shift vet

Hi colleagues. I agree with all of you. 12 hour shifts are tough. Eight hour shifts can turn one week into two. Nine or ten hour shifts would be nice but are rare. Been there and done all of them. When you're talking about direct patient care in this day and age, I think my recommendation to the employers would be to increase the pay, enhance the benefits, and cut back on the hours. Is it necessary to do five eight hour shifts in a week, three 12 hour shifts in a row, four ten hour shifts in a row? If so, why? Caregiving is mentally and physically exhausting.

Also, I don't see any relief in sight anytime soon from young people that are interested in nursing. I think if the powers to be want to perserve what they have, they would do well to consider flexible scheduling with better hours and enhanced benefits.

Susie, I definitely agree with you about the daycare situation. I know of single(includes divorced, etc.) fathers that could use the service.

Bessie, I breastfed my first on 12 hr nights... I pumped at first but couldn't stand it so I just went all night without nursing and my babysitter supplemented him with ProSobee. By the end of my shift you could have popped me with a pin and I was in a lot of pain! But it was worth it.

Concerning 12's: I guess what I'm saying is I would rather have some sort of life 7 days a week than NO life for 3 out of every 7. (But of course, I'm talking about 8 hr DAYS!)

I used to practically knee-crawl to the bed the minute I hit the door (no food, etc.) and sleep until it was time to get up and do it again.

And I have back (Sciatica flare-ups) and arthritis in my knees from a car wreck which really bother me after 3-12's.

I know.... call 1-800-Whaaaaaaa! :)

RN500 and SusieQ, thanks for your responses!

I agree that working wknd nights so my husband can be with the kids will suck for a little while. However, we are both a bit anal and picky when it comes to picking someone to care for our children. :) I am sure everyone is... Also, childcare is Expensive and I am about to have my student loans to pay for. So we are trying to keep the childcare expense to a minimum. Rn500 great ideas on ways to maximize sleep. I will definately turn the phone off. I have a pager, I just hope that when I am in that deep sleep it will wake me up. Fortunately my husband can be contacted as well.

SusieQ I don't even know if I will be able to breastfeed this one because of a medical condition that may require a change in my meds post delivery...but I would like to. Anyway, I am thinking positively....Everything is in Divine right order and we will be fine. :)

Thanks again,


I love 12 hr shifts. I get a lot of time off between working two or three in a row (I am part-time). I also like the extra 4 hours per shift it gives you to get everything done. The rare times I have worked 8 hours (called in in the middle of a shift), I have been running to get everything completed. The extra time makes the shift a lot easier. You are also usually giving report to the person you took report from 12 hours ago. It makes it simpler and improves continuity. Of course you don't have much time or energy left over for housework or the family when you are working, but I find that knowing that if I just work these two days, I will be off maybe 3-4 days or longer, makes up for it.:D

12 hour shifts are the ONLY way to go!

I work half a day on Tuesday (12-6) and 6-6 (days) on Wed, Thurs, and Friday. Finally after all these years I can spend some weekend time with my wife and kids and even squeek in some overtime.

I could never do 12's on med-surg. We do 9 hour

nights and I am beat after that. Offten we're scrambling

too much for a break anyhow. My hat's off to those that

it works for, but not for me. Luckily at my hospital we

can do either.

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