12 hour shifts were introduced to help hospitals battle nursing shortages. While some people think it's the perfect solution, some argue that nurses should work a maximum of 8 hour shifts for patients' safety and for the benefit of their own health. Let's look at the pros and cons of nurses working 12 hour shifts.
Pros of nurses working 12 hour shifts
These are some of the pros for nurses working longer shifts;
Less travel costs for nurses
Some nurses prefer 12 hour shifts over 8 hours because it means less travelling to and from work. If you live far from the hospital, longer shifts means you don't have to travel as far because you're doing your hours on fewer days. As an extra bonus, you have more free days at your disposal.
More work flexibility
When you're working longer hours over a few days, there is more opportunity for you to be flexible over the hours you want to work. Some nurses like the 12 hour system because it means they have more time to do what they want outside of work and their managers tend to be flexible on what days they want to work.
Saves hospital costs
The main reason 12 hour work shifts were introduced was to help battle nursing shortages and help hospitals save money. By working longer hours, nurses cover longer shifts so hospitals don't have to hire more nurses.
One of the pros of nurses working 12 hour shifts means hospitals can spend more on new equipment for patients.
Cons of nurses working 12 hour shifts
We've looked at some of the pros of nurses working longer shifts, so what are the cons?
Nurses' health put at risk
One union claims working long hours has a negative effect on nurses' health. Tiredness not only puts patients at risk but also the health of the nurse and their colleagues. In some cases, nurses forget to take their breaks at work or struggle to sleep because of their changing shift patterns.
When working in procedures or with dangerous equipment, it's crucial the nurse is fully awake. According to King's College London, nurses who work 12 hour shifts have an increased risk of occupational hazards.
Being tired or overworked will negatively impact the way they work and can cause people to forget important health and safety rules. Resulting in a higher risk to their own safety, the patients and their colleagues.
Need to take more time off work
When an employee is stressed and overworked, there is a higher chance they will need to take time off work to recover. Nurses can suffer from work-related back pain and sore legs/feet after working a 12 hour shift. Working longer hours, means a higher chance of suffering stress and exhaustion which can cause you to be more vulnerable to illnesses.
Work performance declines
Exhaustion can impact a nurse's judgement and their performance at work. One of the cons of working longer hours is there is an increased chance of making mistakes: failure to communicate with colleagues, filling incorrect information on documents, wrong diagnoses, etc. In a hospital, making mistakes, no matter how small, can be fatal for a patient.
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