How Long Does a Nurse Work?

No matter the facility’s specialty, full-time employees on hospital nursing units typically work either three 12-hour shifts

Shift work is an employment practice designed to make use of, or provide service across, all 24 hours of the clock each day of the week (often abbreviated as 24/7). The practice typically sees the day divided into shifts, set periods of time during which different groups of workers perform their duties. › Shift_work

weekly (the days may or may not be consecutive), or in five eight-hour shifts. Round-the-clock coverage means many nurses must work weekends and holidays, usually on a rotating basis.

A typical NURSE SCHEDULE | days off, shift details, & more!

How long does a nurse work?

Typically, nurses either work eight, 10 or 12-hour shifts. Depending on factors like location, demand, and personal preference, a nurse’s shifts may vary. Part-time nurses typically work fewer than 30 hours per week, while full-time nurses put in between 36 and 40 hours per week.

Heres a breakdown of the three most common nursing shifts:

Eight-hour shifts

Some nurses work eight-hour shifts five days a week. In clinical and educational settings, where nurses are only required to be on call during regular business hours, this is most prevalent. However, this also depends on the location, as some facilities may be open seven days a week. In these situations, nurses may only work Monday through Friday.

In other places, such as hospitals, nurses may choose to work five eight-hour shifts a week, but these shifts are not always during the day. For instance, regardless of how long their shifts are or how many days a week they work, nurses may be required to work weekends or nights in an urgent care facility that is open 24/7.

10-hour shifts

Other nurses may work 10-hour shifts four days a week. Nurses who work 10-hour shifts have three days off per week, which can be taken back-to-back or separated by shifts.

10-hour shifts are the least common type of nursing shift. While most workplaces prefer eight- or 12-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts are occasionally made available in 24/7 clinical settings. Some nurses find that this shift allows them to work fewer days but is still not as demanding as a 12-hour shift, making it a good compromise between the other shift lengths.

12-hour shifts

Some nurses may elect to work three days a week in 12-hour shifts. This is most frequent in establishments that are open 24 hours a day, like hospitals, urgent care facilities, and assisted living facilities. These workplaces typically assign longer shifts because they need nurses on staff at all times.

Nurses in these settings can choose to work day or night shifts. Although it is possible to work a combination of day and night shifts every now and then, most nurses working this shift stick to a regular schedule of working either days or nights due to the length of 12-hour shifts.

What are a nurse’s responsibilities?

The variety of duties that nurses must perform can influence how long their shifts are. No matter how long, most registered nurses are in charge of the following aspects of patient care:

In contrast, a neonatal nurse in a NICU provides care for infants who need ongoing observation. These nurses may be required to work overtime and on weekends in addition to longer shifts.

What are on-call shifts?

In addition to their regular shifts, nurses may also work varying-length on-call shifts that are not part of their regular work schedule. On-call shifts may be scheduled for a nurse’s day off or may start after the end of the nurse’s regular shift. Nurses can leave their on-call shift after a regular shift, but they must be available in case they are called back to work. A nurse may work an on-call shift without ever being called into the office.

Each employer determines how frequently a nurse must work on-call shifts, but hospital and ER settings are where on-call shifts are most frequent. These shifts are used to prepare for emergencies, such as staff absences or an unexpected spike in patient volume. While on call, nurses are paid a specific rate, and most employers reward them with a bonus if they report to work.

When do nurses work?

A nurse may work on a different day of the week depending on their particular role and place of employment. The most dependable schedule for nurses is one where they work in doctor’s offices or other places with fewer daily hours because their scheduled hours coincide with business hours.

However, there is a lot more variation for when nurses work in 24/7 facilities. In these settings, the majority of nurses occasionally work weekends, and they are frequently required to work a specific number of holidays each year. Depending on the specialty and level of experience of the nurse, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Can you choose your own schedule as a nurse?

Nurses may be able to select a schedule that works best for them depending on where they are. Nurses who work in facilities that provide round-the-clock care can choose to work the day or night shifts, and they can also combine different shift types during a workweek. For instance, a nurse might work three shifts of 10 hours each and one shift of 8 hours, totaling 38 hours for the week.

However, not all workplaces give nurses the option to select their shifts. Depending on the position, nurses may be required to work three 12-hour shifts or five eight-hour shifts per week. Because there are so many hours available to work, nurses have the most flexibility in their schedules at facilities that operate around the clock.

Even if they are required to work three 12-hour shifts, they might have some control over the times and days of those shifts. Last-minute changes of plan are possible if you have a coworker willing to take your scheduled shift because nurses frequently swap shifts with one another.

How to determine which nursing schedule is right for you

When determining whether a nursing schedule will work for you, take into account what suits your lifestyle the best. If you have other commitments that call for you to take multiple days off each week, working 12-hour shifts might be the ideal schedule for you. 12-hour shifts are frequently the best option for nurses who are juggling other commitments like school or a time-consuming hobby. If you have a long commute, 12-hour shifts might be a good choice because you only need to make the trip to work three days a week.

However, when selecting a nursing schedule, you should also consider your own personal wellbeing. Since everyone is unique, while some people may prefer working 12-hour shifts, others might prefer working eight- or 10-hour shifts because they have more time to rest. Think about whether you can focus for extended periods of time and whether you feel comfortable standing up all day.

For parents who must look after their children in the mornings and after school, a more conventional eight-hour shift might be the best option. Depending on where you work, this shift enables you to arrive home at a reasonable hour and possibly enjoy a weekend off.

Before you start your nursing education, think about where you want to work and what kind of schedule you want. A clinical environment like a family practice may be a good place for you to work if you know you prefer shorter daytime shifts. In contrast, a hospital or urgent care setting might be the best choice if you’re hoping to have some flexibility with your schedule and take a few days off each week.

When choosing the best nursing schedule for you, keep the following things in mind:


How long do nurses typically work?

Typically, nurses either work eight, 10 or 12-hour shifts. Depending on factors like location, demand, and personal preference, a nurse’s shifts may vary. Part-time nurses typically work fewer than 30 hours per week, while full-time nurses put in between 36 and 40 hours per week.

Do nurses work 3 days a week?

The majority of nurses do not enjoy living as four-day weekend warriors despite the fact that twelve-hour shifts typically translate into three-day work weeks.

Do nurses work 7 days a week?

A registered nurse can work 8-hour shifts (5x) per week, 10-hour shifts (4x), or 12-hour shifts (3x) per week depending on the weekly schedule. RNs who work eight or ten hours a day put in about 40 hours a week.

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