Monday, February 21, 2011

Are 12-hour shifts safe? Donna Cardillo, MA, RN - American Nurse Today

Are 12-hour shifts safe?

Donna Cardillo, MA, RN


12-hour shifts have become the norm in hospitals and most nurses love them. One can work 3 days and have 4 days off, there is one less major shift change to contend with, and patients have fewer names and faces to get acclimated to in a 24-hour period. It all makes sense on the surface.


But is working 12 consecutive hours in a fast-paced, high stress, physically and mentally demanding environment a good idea? Does it support the clear judgment, quick thinking and reflexes, and life and death decisions that we must make in the acute care setting?


I know a few nurses who do three 12-hour shifts a week, at least two of the shifts on two consecutive days. Some nurses do three consecutive 12s. Factor in commuting time, shift transition (it can sometimes take 1-2 extra hours to actually finish up), time to get ready for work—never mind making time (if at all) for family or self and they’re lucky to get 5-6 hours of sleep if that. Compound that with the fact that many nurses no longer take meal breaks or even short breaks during their shift to rest and refresh because they believe they don’t have the time or they don’t make the time. This is a recipe for disaster. 

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