What are the benefits of 12-hour vs. 8-hour shifts?
The twelve-hour shift – something of notoriety when you mention you are in the healthcare field. The conversation in my patients’ room usually goes something like this:
Patient: “What time do you get to go home today?”
Response: “I’ll be here until about 7 pm”
Patient: “Oh, wow. And what time did you get here this morning?”
Response: “6:30 am”
Patient: “Twelve hours about, huh? Wow, that’s a long day”.
We usually end up sharing a laugh or two, then I move on with my medication pass and make sure all of their needs are met. In my more contemplative moments, however, I ask myself, “Is it really a long day?”
Yes, twelve hours sounds like a lot. But to me, a PRN employee, it is one of the major benefits of working in my field. I get the opportunity to be at work one to two days a week and get paid for twelve to twenty-four hours worth of work. In the more “normal” careers that exist out there, I would have to be at work three days to obtain twenty-four hours worth of work. To me, that sounds more taxing. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the day my body definitely feels tired and I am ready to be home. But typically all I need is a solid dinner and a restful night’s sleep and I can bounce back relatively quickly for the next day turnaround.
In years past, when I was a full-time employee, having to work three days a week, I still enjoyed the twelve-hour shift. I had three days on and four days off. And if you’re lucky and time it just right, you can even cluster your schedule to get a larger chunk of time off without having to dip into your paid time off. This opens up multiple opportunities for whatever your heart desires – traveling, DIY projects, another job even, or just good ole’ quality time with your loved ones. I had quickly fallen in love with the twelve-hour shift. There are definitely pros and cons to this shift, but to me, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. I find the twelve-hour shift over fewer days gives less opportunity for the dreaded “burn out” and am more likely to pick up an extra shift here and there – a win-win for my employer and for my family!
On the other end of the beautiful twelve-hour shift exists a nurse that works in a more specialized area, typically working eight-hour shifts, five days a week. Those typically consist of private practice clinics, cath labs, PACU’s, case management RN’s, triage call centers or the like. My husband is one of those nurses and he appreciates working with his set schedule. No variance in his weeks, no surprises, but always looking forward to his set schedule. Monday through Friday 0700-1530 and that type of schedule was a dream to him.
That is the beauty of this field. You really can have your cake and eat it, too. If it isn’t working in one area, chances are you can find a different job with a better fitting schedule that meets the needs of your life. If you find yourself needing a change of pace, new scenery, more flexibility, less flexibility, different pay benefits, or what have you, all you need to do is keep an open set of eyes out for the right fit. Find your niche, find what works best for you, don’t give up on pursuing the right fit and life as a nurse is pretty golden.
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About the Author: Mike Michl, RN is a guest writer for Flexwise Health. Her fulltime job and passion is being an emergency room RN working in a busy metropolitan hospital.