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How a nurse’s schedule works

Nurses play a pivotal role among all Health care workers and are expected to be available all the time to cater their services regardless of the conditions and age of the patients. Having said that, nurses work in non-traditional schedules most often. This article talks about the shift pattern in which nurses work, the typical work schedules for nurses,  how many shifts a week do nurses work, how many hours do nurses work in a day and types of nursing schedules.

Typical Work Patterns Of Nurses

There are no typical work schedules for nurses, however, the most predominant scheduling model for the nurses is a 12-hour shift that allows them to work 3 days a week instead of five. Nurses often experience a shift overrun due to understaffing. The most typical night shift of a nurse is a 12-hour shift for 3 consecutive days I.e., from  7:00 p.m to 7:00 a.m that is followed by two to five days off. However, working for 12 long hours in consecutive work shifts are known to affect the quality of patient care provided by the nurses.

The types of nursing schedules can differ based on many factors as follows.

Factors causing varied schedules of nurses

  • The schedules of nurses are directly related to the health care setting under which nurses work.
  • The changes in these schedules vary depending upon the expected number of hours a nurse is expected to put in.

These shifts include 12-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts, 8- hour shifts and as and when needed.

The following are the shift patterns in which nurses work that provide the number of hours nurses work in a day.

12- hour shifts


although a 12-hour shift might seem like forever it has its perks as well.

Nurses who work 12-hour shifts usually work for 3 days a week. These shifts offer more days off and flexibility. These shifts also allow nurses to rest enough and improve their performance.


However, there are some cons to the 12-hour shifts as it feels mentally draining to experience a day that allows you to only work and offers little to no personal time.

10-hour shifts

Pros nurses who work 10- hour shifts have to work 4 days a week and work from Monday to Thursday, which allows them to have long weekends. Nurses who opt for these shifts can have time to run errands of their own and have time for personal things.


A few of the disadvantages attached to the 10-hour shifts are mid-shift stress and less flexibility.

8-hour shifts 


This would be a typical day, as the modern idea of workdays usually consists of 8 hrs.

It comes with a lessened patient load and nurses are less likely to experience burnout due to the availability of ample personal time at the end of each day unlike a 12-hour and 10-hour shift.


Nurses who opt for 8-hour shifts work almost every day that incurs more expenses on commuting, cafeteria etc.,

Working consecutive days in a row may lead to burnout in a challenging career in nursing.

On the contrary to all these, PRN nurses may need to work for different hospitals with a varied level of work assigned to floors. The number of hours these nurses work in a day as a PRN is uncertain. These nurses are also likely to progress less as they don’t work with a specific hospital, hence, it becomes harder for them to grow professionally. The workload can is also uncertain as how many shifts a week do nurses work are not predefined.

The Significance of Teamwork

One of the predominant factors among the healthcare workers that could contribute to efficiency among them is teamwork. This is because when nurses work collaboratively, it is less likely that they get overwhelmed. After all, teamwork comes into play. Hence teamwork is paramount as it is also essential for patient-centred care. Here are some strategies to approach an improved collaboration for the health care workers.

  • Lessening the number of consecutive night shifts for every individual nurse by assigning it to the others who didn’t have a shift the previous night. This is crucial because the lack of sleep due to a night shift for days on end can lead to potential health hazards and impaired emotional and cognitive functions.
  • Nurses should prioritize getting adequate rest as it can impact not only their health but patient care as well.
  • Caffeine can be a great advantage as it can promote alertness during the beginning of the shift, however, don’t use it throughout your shift.
  • Nurses who undertook the night shift ought to get a good sleep during the day in a quiet, dark environment.

How Does Overtime Work?

The factors that can affect Overtime range from the needs of the particular facility and the availability of a Registered Nurse during the week. Having said that it isn’t however mandatory that a nurse should work overtime or a 24 hrs schedule. Facilities such as doctor’s offices and rehabilitation centres have fixed hours of work for nurses that don’t leave nurses with uncertain working hours and in such cases, nurses work overtime only when the institution or facility faces understaffing.

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