Which is better 8 or 12 hour shifts

In some ways, the debate about 8- or 12-hour shifts makes sense — there are some significant differences. In other ways it’s like beauty: all in the eye of the beholder. It also makes a difference whether the perspective is that of the nurse, the employer or the patient.

In the Beginning

The great shift debate was born when hospitals began to move toward longer shifts. In many cases, the demand was driven by the nurses working in the organizations. Labor laws in many states require that the majority of workers in a particular job classification must vote on whether to adopt 12-hour shifts. Today, the majority of hospitals and other inpatient care centers like skilled nursing facilities primarily use the 12-hour shift. Clinics, doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities often use 8-hour shifts.

Fatigue, Errors and Health

Longer shifts can increase fatigue, especially when they run longer due to overtime. Research shows nurses who work three 12-hour shifts in a row are more likely to have trouble with sleep deprivation and slower reaction time, even when working day shifts. However, night shift nurses who try to switch back to a day schedule on days off may become badly sleep deprived with 12-hour shifts. Errors, burnout and on-job injuries are more likely with long shifts, and older nurses may find working 12-hour shifts physically difficult. Nurses who work longer hours are more likely to develop chronic health conditions, including musculoskeletal problems, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Patient Perspectives

With longer shifts, there are only two patient handovers rather than three, which can decrease the risk of miscommunication. On the other hand, nurses working 8-hour shifts may spend five days in a row with the same patient, which allows them to build rapport and become very familiar with his or her condition. Nurses working 12-hour shifts spend (at the most) three days with a patient. Patients also report higher levels of satisfaction when nurses work short shifts.

The Positives

Longer shifts do allow more time off the job for family, education and recreational pursuits. Longer shifts reduce commuting trips. In some ways, scheduling 12-hour shifts is easier because the manager is working with two shifts instead of three. However, fewer nurses are needed for an 8-hour shift pattern (because nurses work fewer days on a 12-hour shift pattern, more are needed for coverage), so the manager is not dealing with as many personal like/dislikes and idiosyncrasies. Some studies have found that 12-hour shifts boost morale and reduce absenteeism.

In the long run, there probably isn’t a “right” answer. It’s important to weigh the potential risks of either shift pattern against the benefits and make a decision that’s right for you.



Written by 3rd in depended party

2016-23969 Exp. 6/18