Long shifts are another example of nurses’ commitment to quality care

Few likely forget scenes that emerged during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when nurses working in hospitals overwhelmed with sick and dying patients were applauded by local residents.

Such public expressions of appreciation were a testament to the sacrifices and risks nurses accepted as COVID claimed more and more lives. In those early days of the pandemic, nurses worked especially long hours, and even though the pandemic is over, nurses continue to work considerably longer workdays than the average profession.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) notes that 12-hour shifts are the standard for many nurses working in hospital settings. The lengthy, often exhausting shifts worked by nurses are another example of their devotion to their patients, as the ANA notes one of the reasons nursing shifts are so long is to ensure better continuity of care for patients.

With just two shift changes per day, hospitals reduce patient handoffs, and the ANA notes that decreases the risk of miscommunication or misunderstandings that could compromise patient care and health.

Though 12-hour shifts are the norm for nurses working in hospitals, the ANA notes that such schedules can have drawbacks, and those can adversely affect nurses. Fatigue from 12-hour shifts, which can and often do last longer than 12 hours thanks to paperwork and additional tasks nurses may not be able to get to during ordinary working hours, can lead to burnout. In addition, nurses typically have limited downtime on workdays, which means they have few hours to spend with family and friends on days when they work.

Nurses working 12-hour shifts may also find they spend a significant portion of their time off recuperating from their long shifts, which can adversely affect their overall quality of life. Twelve-hour shifts are another example of the selfless commitment exhibited by nurses working in hospital settings.

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