12-hour shifts for nurses have become the standard for most hospitals, but why do nurses work 12-hour shifts? The truth is, there is not just one simple answer, but rather a handful of reasons.
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First of all, when hospitals first started assigning 12-hour shifts, it was because nurses preferred more days off, and hospitals preferred it too.
When nurses are working longer, but less often, scheduling is easier. Hospitals no longer had to assign so many shifts to each nurse and spend time making sure everything was covered.
Additionally, there is evidence that shows continuity in inpatient care is beneficial to patients. This means that a fewer number of nurses and doctors would see a patient.
If one patient is cared for by the same set of nurses all the, there is a decreased risk of errors and miscommunication.
If nurses only work six or eight-hour shifts, the patient may have a revolving door of various nurses.
Do all nurses work 12-hour shifts?
At this point, you should know why do nurses work 12-hour shifts. But do all nurses?
No, not all nurses work 12-hour shifts.
Studies have shown that in the United States of America, sixty to sixty-five percent of nurses work twelve-hour shifts, just under a third of nurses work eight-hour shifts, and beyond that, most nurses either work ten-hour shifts or a variety.
There has been some push against the twelve-hour shift recently, including in Sweden, where some hospitals are switching their nurses over to six-hour shifts.
There have been mixed responses to this decision.
However, there is also a push in the other direction.
As some people work to ban the twelve-hour shifts, there is a movement to make them more accessible.
See also: Can Nurses Work Part-Time?
In 2015 a law backed by nurses and hospitals was passed in California that allowed nurses and other healthcare workers to waive their rights to a meal break during the long shifts.
See also: Do Nurses Get Paid Overtime?
Do nurse practitioners work 12-hour shifts?
The short answer to this question is sometimes. Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of health care facilities, but they often work in emergency rooms.
A lot of what decides how long their shifts are is where they work.
For the sake of this article, we are going to talk mainly about nurse practitioners in emergency rooms.
Most emergency rooms are open twenty-four hours, which leaves a lot of time open for nurses to work. Shifts can be eight, ten, or, of course, the most common, twelve hours long.
Beyond that, emergency room nurses (or other kinds of nurse practitioners) can be on-call for twenty-four hours or longer.
Want to learn some more about nurse practitioners? Check out these articles of ours:
- Can a Nurse Practitioner Prescribe Medication?
- Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant
- Can Nurse Practitioners Diagnose?
- Can Nurse Practitioners Deliver Babies?
How do nurses work 12-hour shifts?
Working a twelve-hour shift can be exhausting because of the physical and mental energy it takes to complete one, so how exactly do nurses do it?
Why do nurses work 12-hour shifts if it’s exhausting? Because there are some benefits of working 12 hours shifts!
Well, there are a few techniques that seasoned nurses will recommend to help get someone through the day (or night).
First of all, let’s begin before the shift even starts.
Nurses should get plenty of sleep before work.
Because nurses work twelve-hour shifts, there is a good chance that their sleep schedule is a bit different than everyone else’s, especially the day or night before the shift.
This is because they need to have enough energy to get through the shift. Before the shift, they should try to get 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
It is also beneficial for nurses to pay specific attention to what they are eating before a shift to make sure they get the nutrients and calories they need to stay energized.
Once again, their food schedule might be different than other people’s.
Once the shift actually begins, there are still some things they can do to help them through the long hours.
Taking breaks, even short breaks is essential. Every moment a nurse is on the clock, they have to be prepared for anything that comes up, which can be taxing.
Taking breaks when things are slower gives the body and the brain a break. At least once during the break (if they are able), it can also be beneficial to take a short break off of the unit, for example taking a walk.
Even on breaks, if a nurse remains in the same setting, they will probably not be able to relax genuinely.
Finally, just like it is important for them to eat well before a shift, having access to healthy snacks can help give a nurse the needed burst of fuel to get through the day. Oh, and of course, coffee is usually a nursing staple.
Now you know why do nurses work 12-hour shifts and how do they manage to get through them.
Next, I’m going to tell you about the benefits of 12 hours shifts.
Benefits of 12-hour shifts
Why do nurses work 12-hour shifts? Look at these benefits.
The biggest benefit of twelve-hour nursing shifts is the fact that it allows for continuity of care. Instead of having three or more nurses or sets of nurses in a day, the patient only has two.
This allows trust and relationships to be built between the nurses, the patients, and the patient’s family, which is proven to increase the chances of a positive outcome and lead to a speedier recovery.
Additionally, continuity minimizes the chance of miscommunication, which leads to serious mistakes in the medical field.
The information about a patient does not have to be transferred several times. As the childhood game of the telephone proves, passing information around a lot does not usually work well.
Benefits of working 3 12 hour shifts
The fact that most of the time, when a nurse works twelve-hour shifts, they only work three days a week is where the benefits for most nurses come in.
Working three twelve-hour shifts instead of five eight-hour shifts or even four ten-hour shifts provides a nurse with time for work-life balance. Four full days off can give nurses time to hang out with friends, have a social life, and spend more time with family.
Additionally, if they have a long commute, they do not have to spend as much time driving back and forth each week.
Finally, it allows nurses a bit of flexibility. They can clump shifts together or move them around sometimes so they can do other things. Some nurses will use the time off to travel, work a second job, volunteer, attend school, etc.
That’s why do nurses work 12-hour shifts.
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