Which Is Better, the 8 or 12-Hour Nursing Shift?

While the 12-hour shift has become the norm for nurses, some hospitals and institutions provide nurses with an 8-hour shift as well. There are differences between each shift, and nurses can choose which shift they want based on the variety of employers and what they offer.

The main difference between an 8 and 12-hour nursing shift is the number of days that are consecutively worked. An 8-hour shift will usually require a nurse to work at least five days a week, whereas a 12-hour shift will limit the days to about three or four. In very busy hospitals that have the necessity for more hours worked by a fewer number of nurses, working an 8-hour shift could mean six days of consecutive work, whereas working a 12-hour shift could mean four or five days of consecutive work.

Here we list the top benefits of working either an 8-hour nursing shift or a 12-hour nursing shift.

Top benefits of the 8-hour shift

Here are the top benefits of working an 8-hour nursing shift:

  1. Less fatigue: Nurses become less fatigued when they work 8-hour shifts. A shift with eight hours allows the nurse to go home and get enough rest before their shift the next day.
  2. More downtime on workdays: During a nurse’s workday, there is more downtime to be had by working an eight-hour shift. Nurses can have enough time at home and for other life responsibilities each day.
  3. Patient satisfaction: Patients frequently are more satisfied when nurses work eight-hour shifts. Nurses remain alert throughout their shift, which provides patients with clear communication and added alertness.
  4. More productivity: Nurses are commonly more productive during an 8-hour shift. While longer shifts can cause nurses to become fatigued quickly, a shorter shift allows more to get done from the hours put in each day.
  5. Better routine for life: With the shorter 8-hour shift schedule, nurses can keep a daily routine that provides them with equal amounts of sleep and other self-care. Instead of sleeping well for three nights and not sleeping well for four nights can cause a negative work-life balance.

Top benefits of the 12-hour shift

Here are the top benefits of working a 12-hour nursing shift:

  1. Shorter workweek: By working a 12-hour shift instead of an 8-hour shift, you more than likely have a shorter workweek. Because of this short workweek, even during stressful times, a nurse can know that their week will end in just three or four days (or less).
  2. Flexibility: 12-hour shifts provide nurses with the flexibility they might need for the rest of their life. Working three or four days a week allows for a lot more weekly life necessities to be done.
  3. Continuous care for patients: Nurses that work 12 hours can better take care of patients. Instead of switching nurses during shift changes multiple times each day, the shift changes happen less frequently and give patients better care from the same nurse.
  4. Increase in morale: When a nurse has a particularly stressful week or needs to take a break, their 12-hour shift schedule allows them to take multiple days off (sometimes three or four days in a row), which increases the morale among the nursing staff.
  5. Reduction in staffing needs: When nurses can work longer hours, staffing requirements reduce in the nursing unit. Longer shifts allow hospitals and medical institutions not to have as many nurses working for them at the same time. This creates more efficient units and makes it easier for nurses to do their job.


There are plenty of benefits for both a 12-hour and 8-hour workweek for nurses, and finding out which one is better will be determined by each person’s daily and weekly life.

For those who enjoy a daily routine that doesn’t change much and makes it a point to give the same productivity throughout their entire shift, an 8-hour shift schedule might work better for them. For those who enjoy a more flexible schedule with more days off during the week and the ability to provide continuous care for patients throughout an entire day or night, a 12-hour shift schedule can work better for them.

Nurses can write down the benefits from each list above and decide on the most critical factors that matter to them individually. While nurses may not have the choice of their schedule once they are working for an employer, they do have the opportunity of choosing their type of schedule by asking essential questions during their interviews before they accept a nursing position.

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