Nurses work hard. The real question is, “How hard?” While hard work isn’t measured in hours alone, time is a huge factor. Add to that emotional and mental labor, and we’re talking about a demanding career.
All this hard work comes with great rewards, especially for patients. If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, or you already are one and want to know how your nursing shifts stack up and exactly how many hours a nurse works per week and per day, read on. (Spoiler alert: it’s a lot.)
And, since we’re always here to support healthcare professionals like you and help you do your best work while living your best life, we won’t just tell you how many hours nurses work per day. We’ll provide some tips on getting through those challenging moments, too.
How many hours do nurses work a week?
As a nurse, your weekly hour count depends on what kind of nursing you do, the pace of your specialty area, who you work for and any extenuating circumstances that put pressure on your team’s schedule (like low staffing).
That said, you can use the following information as a jumping-off point. Registered nurses usually work five shifts per week—usually 8 hours each—or another combination that totals the same number of hours. For example, some nurses work four 10-hour shifts, and others work three 12-hour shifts. All these varieties add up to a workweek that’s roughly 40 hours.
How many hours do nurses work a day?
The answer to this question depends on the work schedule a nurse has negotiated, but there are some typical time frames that we usually see in the industry.
As we mentioned above, there are 8-, 10- and 12-hour shifts. If you work one of these longer shifts, you will likely have a slightly shorter week. For example if you pull a 12-hour shift, you may only work a 36-hour week. And, when we say “only,” we’re talking about hours, not effort. There are some extreme cases of longer shifts, like 16-hour ones.
How many days do nurses work? Again, that depends. A good rule of thumb is the longer the shift, the fewer days per week you’d work it.
What is a typical registered nurse schedule?
A total of 40 hours always sounds like a lot, no matter what kind of work you do. Predicting what our days will look like and planning accordingly will helps us stay happy and healthy.
Let’s take the example of a 12-hour shift. This kind of work, if you get daytime hours, can run 7 am-7 pm and, conversely, 7 pm-7 am if you have the night shift. At the beginning and end of these shifts, you’ll coordinate with the incoming or outgoing staff on patient conditions and other important information to keep the next shift running smoothly.
What are some pros and cons of nursing hours?
When it comes to working hours and conditions, every job has pros and cons. Yes, even those luxurious-looking, work-from-home jobs have their downfalls. Here are some considerations about nursing schedules.
- The hours are flexible: It’s kind of like getting a long weekend whenever you want. The catch? That “weekend” may be in the middle of the week. Look at the upside: You’ll get a better rate at that spa hotel you wanted to try out, and you can stay an extra day.
- Three- and four-day work schedules: While some nurses work five days a week, there are other schedules that allow you to have more days off and reap some unexpected benefits. For example, you can spend more time with your family and save on childcare costs. You’ll also commute less.
- The work isn’t boring: We won’t say that time always flies in this profession, but in comparison with, let’s say, sitting in a cubicle, time in a nursing role certainly goes at a steadier clip. Since you’re always on your feet (and proverbially on your toes), you may not be checking the clock as much as you would in other jobs.
- The days are tiring: This may be an obvious point, but hard work over a long shift is grueling. We know you can do it, and we’ll be cheering you on all the way (and making sure you’re as comfortable as possible), but that doesn’t negate the challenge.
- Long nights: Not all careers have a night shift option, so nursing could be a perfect fit if you’re an insomniac. But, for those who cherish your solid 8-hours of sleep, you may have to learn to adapt to a schedule that’s not your favorite. Perhaps installing some blackout curtains in your bedroom will help you squeeze in some daytime winks.
Tips for staying well while working long hours
- Make time for yourself: Stick to your self-care rituals, even if you have to do them at odd times.
- Take advantage of the benefits of your schedule: We weren’t joking about grabbing a better weekday rate at a hotel. And we certainly weren’t kidding about using your time off to spend time with the ones you love. Try to make your work schedule work for you.
- Watch your health: Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, take care of your tired muscles and feet, and eat nourishing food to power through those long hours.
Let us work hard on keeping you comfortable at work in luxe scrubs. You already have enough to do, so count on us, always!