Adjusting to the Work Hours of a Nursing Degree?

Adjusting to the Work Hours of a Nursing Degree?

Mar 18, 2015 | 12:00 pm

You either earned or are in the process of earning your nursing degree and it’s time to start gaining experience at work, but your nursing hours may feel less than desirable. Between the nursing shortage ending (temporarily) and experienced nurses competing for the best shifts, finding your ideal nursing hours may not happen for a few years. How will you manage?

Typical Shift Hours for Nurses

Let’s take a look at the reality of a nurse’s work schedule. While some nurses who work in office settings or schools hold down standard 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 business hours, nurses who work in hospitals, 24-hour healthcare facilities and other emergency settings pick up “shifts,” which can include nights, weekends and holidays. Nursing hours for a typical week could look something like this:

•Five 8-hour shifts per week
•Four 10-hour shifts per week
•Three 12-hour shifts per week
•A scenario above with overtime or extended hours

Adjusting to these hours right after earning your nursing degree, or while earning your degree, can take adjusting, but it’s a part of the job.

Managing Your Nursing Hours

If you’re adjusting to new nursing hours, hang in there, you will find a schedule that works best for you. In the meantime, get rest consistently when you aren’t working. A study done by Vanderbilt University notes that as many as 25 percent of hospital nurses skip sleep for up to 24 hours to adjust to their night-time nursing hours, which is the least effective strategy for adapting their internal clocks to night shift. offers some advice for how to combat long nursing hours with a healthier sleep schedule:

•Before you go to sleep ensure the room is completely dark so no light breaks through to disrupt sleep.
•Set a sleep schedule and stick to it, even on off days, so that your body can get into the rhythm.
•Eat healthy, get exercise, stay hydrated and see some sunlight every day.

For employed nurses going back for a degree, learn from those who have gone before. Chamberlain College of Nursing blog writer Molly Mattison notes that if you must work while earning your nursing degree, keep open communication with your manager and let him or her know your school schedule will change every eight weeks. Other tips to stay balanced: keep organized from the beginning, find a network of support and focus on the end goal.