working 12 hour shifts

Pros and Cons of Working 12-hour Shifts

A 12-hour shift as a nurse is a grueling and exhausting experience. But with this type of schedule, we also get to do other things outside of work for a more extended period.

Personally, my passion for helping others drives me as a nurse, and I am grateful for the freedom it gives me to spend more time with my family when I’m not working. I wouldn’t have that luxury if I stuck to a regular 9 to 5 schedule! And while this may sound great, I still want you to consider the advantages and disadvantages of working 12-hour shifts as a nurse before deciding to pursue one. Here are some insights that you may benefit from.

Pros of working 12-hour shifts

Flexible working conditions

Nursing shifts of 12 hours provide for more flexibility in setting up work schedules. This will be really important to you if you’re also a parent like me who needs more time to be at home to spend time with the kids.

In addition to this, working as a per diem nurse will provide you with more flexibility regarding your workday. It doesn’t matter how many days a week the hospital requires you to work, I’m always pleased to do so (because I wouldn’t want to work more than two or three days in a row if I could help it).

Extra time to rest

4 days off, anyone? The number of required workdays for nurses who work full-time 12-hour shifts is reduced from 5 to 3. So each week consists of four days off instead of the normal two days. Who wouldn’t love that?! A shortened work week is something that virtually everyone would want to have at some point – including me.

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The amount of time spent traveling to and from work is reduced, saving both time and gas.

As opposed to the more typical Monday through Friday schedule, working three days a week drastically reduces your commuting time. Moreover, if any of those days fall on the weekend, there is a chance that you will not encounter any traffic at all.

Cons of working 12-hour shifts

You may feel that the days are long

The days can seem especially long when you work 12-hour shifts. It may leave us feeling exhausted by the end of the day. If that particular day is extra busy, the lack of time for breaks can make it difficult to stay focused. As much as you can, try to take advantage of your breaks. You can use your time off to rest and recharge.

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Our health may be compromised

As nurses, we are constantly on the go and this can actually have a significant impact on our health. Aside from backaches and holding our urine for long periods, working 12-hour shifts can lead to fatigue. This can compromise our ability to make sound decisions and react quickly in emergency situations. It can also lead to burnout, which can result in depression and anxiety.

Stress levels are increased

According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, longer shifts are associated with higher levels of burnout and decreased patient satisfaction. According to the research, burnout and job discontent are two and a half times more common among nurses who work shifts of 10 hours or more than those who work shifts of six hours or less.


If you’re considering a career in nursing, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of 12-hour shifts. It can be tough work, but it also has its rewards. And whatever shift you take, always make sure that you take care of your health. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever worked this schedule – I would love to hear about your experience!


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8 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Working 12-hour Shifts”

  1. Tricia Applewhite

    I enjoyed reading this article. I have worked only 12hr shifts as I became a nurse and I am presently considering transferring to another hospital with 8hr shifts. You have me alot to think about. Thank you.

  2. I’m a student nurse and I always knew I wanted to work 12 hour shifts so that I would be able to have more time with my kids . My mom was also a nurse at a hospital and worked the 12 hour shift with many doubles often too, and it finally caught up to her . A lot to consider , but given that I carry stress well and almost thrive in long hours and chaos , I would still much rather work 3 12’s with the adequate time to recover and spend at home . Great article , Meg ! Thoroughly enjoying and using all your resources.

    1. Great insight! It’s really up to your preference while considering greatly the impact on your health! So finding ways to manage stress and burnout is really important. Thank you for your comment Rochelle and I love that you’re enjoying the resources!

  3. I recently returned to hospital nursing after being out for several years because of problems with my adopted son. I work a 12hr shift at a very busy medical/telemetry unit where you take 6 very complicated patients . I was shocked at all the changes such as no charts ,using cell phones for everything, newer equipment to try and figure out but with all this being said I would rather have 3 days of stress and fatigue than 5 because the time off gives you time to recoup and forget what caused you stress in the first place. I’ve been doing this over 20 years and to me the long hours can be stressful at times but the biggest stressor is when you don’t have the most important element “Teamwork” when you have each others back your day whether 8 or 12 hours helps you realize you are not alone .

    1. I totally agree with this! Team members really play an important role in our shifts and it’s one of the things that make 12 hour shifts bearable. Thanks for sharing Bonnie! I’m sure you’ve already adjusted to the changes when you went back into hospital nursing!

  4. I currently work at 12 hour shift As medical Assistant in urgent care it works well with my school schedule for nursing and it works best for my family Are used to work 5/8s And would definitely have it either way now I don’t think I could ever go back to eight hour shifts

    1. I’m glad that 12-hour shifts are working well for you! Finding a work schedule that suits your lifestyle is definitely key. Keep up the great work and continue to take care of yourself!

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