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Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

Last post 02-01-2014, 1:21 AM by Rohan Jain. 35 replies.
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  •  01-29-2011, 3:42 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    No, they are not safe.  The benefit to the patient in coordination of care between two nurses rather than three is offset by errors a tired nurse may make.  A ten-hour shift is the longest that should be scheduled.
  •  01-29-2011, 5:30 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    I absolutely believe that it is safe to work 12hr shifts. I may be physically a bit fatigued after a 12 hr shift, but my mental acuity is intact and the safety of my patients is not affected. I do agree that 3 12s in a row is a bit much. However, if you practice safe nursing (i.e. the 5 rights when administering meds, reviewing orders, etc) then your errors should not increase. Please take note, I am an Obstetrics nurse and rarely have more than 2 active labor patients at a time (do remember to take in consideration that the fetus is also a patient, so that is actually 4).  I would suggest to know your limitations, and 12 hours may not suite everyone.  I only wish that hospitals would permit greater scheduling options for nurses, so that we may provide the best care possible.
  •  01-29-2011, 6:11 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    I work on the only unit at a very large hospital in Southern California that doesn't do 12 hour shifts. We have voted it down twice in the past 20 years and it's coming up again only because we have a new Care Center Coordinator who thinks it may be a better idea.  There are reasons we voted it down the two times before and I'm certain it will be again.  We may be the only unit in this large medical center that doesn't do 12's but being a rehabilitation unit with the constant heavy lifting, transfers, education, massive charting for state and national regs and types of patients in general a unit such as this gets, we would be asking for more back injuries and worker's comp claims.  It takes nurses longer to recover on their days off working 12's also.  We do have some new staff that may want it but the "oldsters" understand the implications of doing 12's and the problems it can bring.  The coordinator feels we need to be in sync with the rest of the hospital but she doesn't have any rehab experience or background and I believe doesn't understand the full picture regarding the type of patient and care we give on a minute by minute basis.  I have a daughter who is a new nurse on a Critical Care unit and she loves the 12 hour shift because she has more days off.  I've told her to wait ten years, she may be re-thinking that idea.  I've been a nurse for 35 years and I've seen what the 12's do to some nurses.  It's grueling work and they still have overtime because we are being asked to do more and more before we go home.  I'm 100% against it but if my unit does vote it in, I will have no choice but to do the 12's.  I'm fortunate enough to be able to now work only .5 so for me it will mean working longer hours, less days and taking more time to recover on my days off.

  •  01-29-2011, 9:30 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    12 hour shifts are completely safe. But it should be an option. Those who feel they cannot handle doing 12 hour shifts should not be forced to work them. For most of us who do want to work a longer day there are many advantages and benefits. There is less changing of shifts which require time consuming shift reports. There is less of a rush with patient care to try to accomplish all that needs to be done in an 8 hour day. We can complete most plans we implement and not have to leave it for the next shift, so there is continuity.

    For those who tend to fatigue working long days, 12 hour shifts should be limited to no more than 2 consecutive days.

    For commuters, 12 hour shifts would limit the need to travel so many times in a week which can be exhausting, time consuming and expensive.

    I have worked 12 hour shifts for more than 20 years. It was the best arrangement for my family life having 4 day off in a week. I was able to spend more time with my children and family, and less time commuting and working. Being content with my home life allows me to be a better nurse.

     


    ME
  •  02-05-2011, 5:49 AM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    I never felt that 12 hour shifts were good. I've heard it a hundred times this thing about how wonderful it is to have 4 days off in a row but not all scheduling allows this to happen. I also question the fatigue that is building up working those 3 days and how it does effect the nurse and esp. in the care she gives her pts. And there is a difference between working 12 hour shifts between the day and night shift and feel being on the night shift leads to more "wear" on the nurse and ultimately more hazard to the pt. In a perfect world you get out on time/you fall asleep quckly/have a restful sleep/and you have 4-5 pts, but that's a perfect world.

     

  •  02-12-2011, 10:50 AM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    Beware, everyone.  The discussion of "24 hours off between shifts" and someone can only return at the beginning of aother tour-> If you're "off at 7PM, you can only return at 7PM the next day" is management speak thatappears to be helpful when it may actually be ensure that other  other shifts are covered.  If this happens, rotating shifts may be the only possiblility and any consistency in your professional life may be threatened. For most of us, we need consistnency and balance to perform well.

    Long ago it was determined (through studies)that 12 hour shifts resulted in less alert Nurse.  I've worked every kind of shift/tour except the Baylor program that offerred 2 16-hour days every weekend.  I also understand the 8-hour shift and five days a week and how it can leave very little room for your personal life.  When I worked the 3-11PM shift and stepped into others working a 12 hour shift, I was often alone because the day shift was tired and unavailable.  It's also known that after 2 or 3 days of a 12 hour shift, that first day off is really for recovery.  I have to ask, "What is wrong with having as good a day-off as you had  day-on?  What is wrong with being as productive on your first day-off as you were the day before when you worked?

    Nursing is also a "profession", not a "job". It is where you apply the theory that you learned in school to your patient care and your relationships with other Health Care Professionals (read "collaborative practice").  You will only be able to do that if you are able to think clearly and be able to interact and communicate first with your peers (read "time for discussion of your patient's progress and plans") not only during, but at the end of your shift.  Rather than shift-to-shift report, it could be nursing rounds.  Why do you think MDs, Pharmacy PhDs etc. etc have rounds?  It's educational and patient care improves.

    Patients perceive a "better care" with 12 -hour shifts sometimes as well.  Could it be that because they got to know you better that they are are willing to forgive those last few tired hours when it took longer for someone to answer a call bell or not change a vasoactive drug or perceive a subtle change in the patient that might have changed care or improve a blood gas because of one last turn with chest percussion or be able to interact withthe peer that comes on the next shift and not only improve care, but learn somehting from one another?

    What about 10-hour shifts?  What about better (and mandated) nurse-patient ratios?  It has also been proven that if you have a good (competent) nurse at the bedside, a patient will recover faster and be discharged sooner. 

    So let's look at the money here.  Hiring institutions hate 10 hour shifts.  10-hours not only doesn't just "plug into" the 24-hour day, but supposedly costs more money.  I maintain that if they/we  (management and us) got their heads out of the 24-hour mindset and became even more flexible than we already are, we could figure out how to have less overlap and still benefit from peer-to-peer discussion.  And yes, with the overlap, the budget will be bigger.  But wait, the patient recovers faster, is out of the hospital sooner and without complications that cost even more money.  Everyone saves here--the patient, the hospital AND the insurance company.  And all lit took was an investment in the person who is next to the patient (read customer/consumer) 24 hours a day.  Hospitals and insurance companies all suffer from the same malday that Lehman Brothers, AIG and all the failing institutions suffered from and that it that the short term gain is better than the long term gain to them.  In other words, the money seen now is better than waitng for it later (next quarter or at the end of the year).  The patient, their families and you suffer from this approach to fiscal management.  Everyone loses in the long term and we work endlessly to "catch up". 

    A brief example of this is an elderly patient in an HMO needing a simple bunion removal was not given the nurse post op (about $500) nor a vascular consult (about $1000 for the MD and any exams that may have been ordered).  It ended up costng the HMO about $500,000 and the patient suffered with complications (infection, pain and a leg amputation) for about 2 !/2 years.  If YOU have the time and energy and support to evaluate and take care of the patient in a thoughtful and reasonable manor, YOU can prevent events such as this.  In order to do that though, your employer and health care in general has to support YOU. 

     My point is that 12-hour shifts do not serve you or your patient.  8-hour shifts are better, but 10-hour shifts are even better and would allow you to be a better nurse.  You then will have to ensure that it is not "just a job", but a profession.  When that happens, everybody wins.

    Mercedes

     

     

     

  •  04-12-2011, 5:16 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    Many nurses may feel they are safe to work their 12 hours, but I think they are in denial about the long term side effects of working such long shift.  The drawbacks:  1.  Many nurses admit they are less alert during the last 4 hours of a 12 hour shift.  2.  They admit being so exhausted when they get home they eat and go to bed.  This is very unhealthy leading to weight gain, hypertension, increase in stress because things cannot be done at home, let alone the neglect of family and personal life, etc., etc.  No nurse should be allowed to work a double whether it is after an 8 hour shift or a 12 hour shift.  The job requires 110% alertness at all times.  This is impossible to attain when working a double.

    Working three 12 hour shifts may leave you with a few extra days, but I believe at least 2 of the days are spent recovering.  Working four 8 hour shifts still leaves people with some "extra" days. 

    The consant feeling of exhaustion, elevated cortisol levels and stress is what leads to the chronic illness(s) or injury(ies), later.  Unfortunately, these are things that many may not recognize until it is too late.  As much as nurses want to keep going, in order to deliver excellent care, they must take care of themselves aas well.

    I say offer 12 hour shifts, (see I do believe in giving people a choice), 8 hour shifts, and 4 hours shifts, (very nice for bridging the gap between an 8 hour nurse and a 12 hour nurse).  Allow nurses the flexibility to choose the shift they want to work.  Flexibility in a profession makes it very attractive and leads to happier employees and consequently better quality of care and better productivity.

     

  •  04-12-2011, 5:22 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    Many nurses may feel they are safe to work their 12 hours, but I think they are in denial about the long term side effects of working such long shift.  The drawbacks:  1.  Many nurses admit they are less alert during the last 4 hours of a 12 hour shift.  2.  They admit being so exhausted when they get home they eat and go to bed.  This is very unhealthy leading to weight gain, hypertension, increase in stress because things cannot be done at home, let alone the neglect of family and personal life, etc., etc.  No nurse should be allowed to work a double whether it is after an 8 hour shift or a 12 hour shift.  The job requires 110% alertness at all times.  This is impossible to attain when working a double.

    Working three 12 hour shifts may leave you with a few extra days, but I believe at least 2 of the days are spent recovering.  Working four 8 hour shifts still leaves people with some "extra" days. 

    The consant feeling of exhaustion, elevated cortisol levels and stress is what leads to the chronic illness(s) or injury(ies), later.  Unfortunately, these are things that many may not recognize until it is too late.  As much as nurses want to keep going, in order to deliver excellent care, they must take care of themselves as well.

    I say offer 12 hour shifts, (see I do believe in giving people a choice), 8 hour shifts, and 4 hours shifts, (very nice for bridging the gap between an 8 hour nurse and a 12 hour nurse).  Allow nurses the flexibility to choose the shift they want to work.  Flexibility in a profession makes it very attractive and leads to happier employees and consequently better quality of care and better productivity.

     

  •  05-03-2011, 8:09 AM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    Here is more evidence that 12-hour shifts are dangerous for nurses. Jeanne Geiger-Brown, PhD,RN, found in a study that the nurses working 12-hours shifts were "chronically sleep deprived." This puts not only patients at risk, since decision-making is impacted, but puts the nurse at risk. Nurse reported being sleepy on the drive home from work. Geiger-Brown points to studies showing sleep-deprived nurses are also at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and suppressed immune function.

    If nursing is supposed to be an evidence-based practice, why not listen to this evidence?


    Linda Jones
  •  06-14-2011, 1:20 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    working for 12 hours for any body will not be gud it will effect not only body but mind also

    working of nurses foe 12 hours can be dangerous because they had to deal wiht many tings tat is related to patients nd any mistake can be very bad for patients.


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  •  06-22-2011, 10:48 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    I don't think that a 12 hour shift is safe and it can result in bigger mistakes.

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  •  08-11-2011, 5:15 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    being a lpn i work 12hr shifts in a nursing home with 15-18 skilled patients for the entire shift.  we are also responsible for all manual charting, med passes, feeding patients, wound care, etc.  YES I think it is very dangerous both to the residents and the staff.  at the end of a 12hr shift not only are you phyically tired, but you are also BRAIN DEAD!   Tennessee speaking here.
  •  09-07-2011, 3:20 AM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    Some nuses, possibly even a majority, will be able to function well for 12-hour shifts.  But a very big percentage of nurses will not always be alert enough after 8 or 10 hours of continuous work.  I think it would be better to have 8-hours shifts.  Even when continuous treatment is critical, as in ICUs, a fresh nurse will be able to judge the situation better than a tired one.
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  •  09-07-2011, 5:31 PM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    I've been an Rn for 33 years and have done my share of 8 hour shifts and 12  hour shifts. I am inclined to say that 12 hour shifts are primarily for the convenience of the facility because 3-11 shift is a difficult shift to staff for as well as replace when someone calls off. New nurses don't know any different because that is all they have ever worked. I am an advocate for the return of 8 hour shifts. It is safer for the patients because their caregiver is more rested and alert. It is safer for the nurse because he/she is less fatigued and less apt to make an error or injure themselves. I would work 8 hour shifts and every other weekend in a heart beat!

    Rhonda

  •  10-18-2011, 11:45 AM

    Re: Is it safe for nurses to work 12-hour shifts

    i dont think that it is safe for anyone to work for that long especially nurses as they are suppose to take care of patients any mistake due to over work can be fatal for the patients.

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