A 12-hour shift is a norm in most hospitals and most nurses like them. After all, four days off a week is a sweet deal. However, working 12 consecutive hours on your feet can take a toll. 12-hour nursing shifts have their pros and cons, and here are a few of them.
The Pros of a 12-Hour Nursing Shift
From a management perspective, a 12-hour nursing shift does offer advantages. There is increased continuity, reduced absenteeism and an increase in morale. For you, a 12-hour shift does have benefits, including:
- More days off. Yes, a 12-hour shift is more extended, but having four days off per week is lovely. Extra time off through the week is ideal for spending time with your family, taking care of appointments and doing chores.
- You can provide better care for patients. Every time nurses need to step away from a patient, the level of care decreases. Over time, this adds up. A 12-hour shift requires one report exchange, while an eight-hour shift requires three. The 12-hour shift leaves less room for error.
- You can spend more time with your family and friends. When you work three days per week and have four days a week off, you have additional time to create memories with your loved ones. This situation is ideal for working moms who want to spend time with their young children.
- You might be able to save money. You can conserve money on your gas bill by commuting to work less each week, not to mention the time you will also save.
- You can take a mini-vacation without using your vacation time. When you have four days off consecutively, you have time to sneak in a beautiful vacation without using up your valuable vacation time. Furthermore, you have time for medical and dental appointments without using personal time off.
The Cons of a 12-Hour Nursing Shift
Just like anything else, there are disadvantages to working a 12-hour nursing shift. Negatives may include the following:
- A 12-hour day is a long day. Although nurses enjoy the scheduling flexibility that accompanies a 12-hour shift, they also report higher levels of burnout than those who work eight-hour shifts. Furthermore, nurse burnout often leads to high rates of patient dissatisfaction.
- You are more susceptible to adverse health outcomes. 12-hour shifts leave little time for nurses to meet their personal needs, resulting in their own set of health problems. Back pain, sore feet, headaches, and physical and mental exhaustion are common complaints.
- Exhaustion leads to mistakes. Burnout and fatigue add up, resulting in the chance for committing simple errors. Unfortunately, in health care, small mistakes often have dire consequences.
- Your days off are recovery days. A 12-hour shift can take a significant toll on a nurse. Recovery often means staying in bed on your days off, trying to recuperate. Unfortunately, when you finally feel rested, it is time to go back to work.
- Burnout. With long, 12-hour shifts, burnout is often inevitable. Burnout affects us mentally, physically and emotionally, and it can damage jobs and relationships. Worse still, burnout can endanger your patients.
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