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What is your typical schedule as a registered nurse? Did you get to choose your working hours?

I just want to know the typical schedule of a nurse. Do you work nights? Are you allowed to choose what time of day you want to work?Is it easier to work overnight or during the day for you?

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John’s Answer

Hospitals are always open, round the clock, all year long. So, if you're considering a career in a hospital, be prepared to work night shifts at some point. For new nurses, night shifts are often the first step, as they're typically harder to staff. While many people prefer the day shift, there are also those who favor the night shift. But the demand for night shift workers is usually higher.

The length of your shift can vary, depending on the department you're in. It could be an 8-hour shift or a 12-hour one. In some cases, shorter shifts may be scheduled to support staff during peak hours.

Both day and night shifts come with their own advantages. Working the day shift means you'll be on a similar schedule to most people, with your sleep cycle largely undisturbed. You might need to adjust to early start times, as many 12-hour shifts begin at 6am. Daytime in hospitals is usually busier, with more visitors, more tests being conducted, and the presence of managers and administrators. When I first started, I noticed that the day shift had more experienced nurses, which was beneficial during my initial orientation period.

Night shifts, on the other hand, are quieter with less testing and fewer visitors. Instead of managers and administrators, nursing supervisors often oversee admissions, transfers, and other tasks. One of the biggest challenges I faced while working nights was getting enough sleep during the day. Daytime isn't as quiet as nighttime, with people mowing lawns or construction work happening. Since most people work during the day, they often forget about those who work nights and need to sleep during the day. I found that blackout curtains, earplugs, and a white noise machine helped me deal with these disruptions, but it took me years of trial and error to figure out how to sleep well during the day.

I hope this information helps you understand what to expect. Remember, it's important to express your shift preference to your manager. Even if you don't get your preferred shift right away, your manager will be aware of your preference and can help you secure it when an opportunity arises.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help. Eric
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Becky’s Answer

Hi Dori,
These are great questions to ask before you venture on a career path. A typical day of a registered nurse depends on you the job and the setting that you have applied for. As such if you applied for a night shift position, you are expected to work night shift. How you respond to day or night shift is also a personal preference. I have always liked the day shift but many prefer the night. It would be your choice to make. Some find the night shift easier than the day but every shift and every setting has its own unique set of expectations.
Hope this was useful information.
Becky
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Char’s Answer

Hi Dori,
Here are the answers to your questions:

What is your typical schedule as a registered nurse?
I don't work in a hospital anymore but when I was a new RN, I worked 3 days a week, 12-hour shifts which is considered full time. I had to work every other weekend and some holidays. I started off working night shift 7:00pm - 7:30am. Each shift, I had one 30-minute lunch break and two 15 minute breaks (this could vary depending on the state you live in). Most of the day consisted of giving medications, doing procedures, answering phone calls, checking up on patients, and charting in the computer.

Did you get to choose your working hours? Are you allowed to choose what time of day you want to work?
Most nurses who work in hospitals have to work 12-hour shifts and they are usually from 6 to 6 or 7 to 7 depending on where you work. I've even seen 9 to 9 before. The only option you really have is whether you work nights or days. If you're a new nurse, you might not have any choice. My job eventually let us choose what specific dates we wanted to work (first come first served).

Do you work nights?
When I was first hired as a new RN, I started working nights. I wanted to work days but there were only 2 day shifts available at that time and the other 4 nurses who were hired with me also wanted days. Our manager did a draw from a hat and I lost.

Is it easier to work overnight or during the day for you?
I worked nights for 2 years then started day shift. Night shift was hard on me because all I wanted to do on my days off was sleep. Sometimes I would choose sleep over eating. The schedule was too hard for me. Once I started working days, I got my health back and had a better sleep schedule. The only issue is that days are usually a lot busier than nights. Both shifts are busy (patients are often awake throughout the night) but there's less phone calls, family visits, and other activities happening on nights.
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