How Many Hours Do Nurses Work – [Complete Breakdown]

Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

Are you a nurse or considering becoming one and wondering what your work schedule will be like? Perhaps you prefer to work in a specific setting but are concerned about the hours or shifts you will be required to work. You may wonder if there are options for choosing your own hours or ask, "How many hours do nurses work?”

Several factors determine the number of hours registered nurses work, including your job title and responsibilities or the type of healthcare setting where you work. In this article, I will share a complete breakdown of how many hours nurses work in various settings and with different roles. I will also provide you with some insight and tips on how to choose a nurse work schedule that is best for you.



The number of hours nurses work a day in the United States depends on where they work and their role or job title. For example, registered nurses who work in administrative or management positions may work traditional office hours, which are usually 8-hour workdays. RNs who work in facilities that provide 24-hour patient care, such as hospitals or nursing homes, may work eight- or twelve-hour shifts.


Weekly registered nurse work hours vary. If you are an RN working a full-time job, you can expect to work approximately 40 hours per week. Part-time registered nurses usually work 25 to 30 hours weekly. RNs who work per diem or travel nurse jobs may work extended hours, depending on the terms of their contracts.


The average number of hours registered nurses work is likely to vary more so because of their job title or designation of part-time or full-time status instead of the state where they are employed. However, there are some states that have enacted regulations that limit or prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses.

For example, in Alaska, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia, mandatory overtime for RNs is illegal. Alaska limits the number of hours an RN can work to 14 consecutive hours. In New Hampshire, California, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, registered nurses may work a maximum of 12 consecutive hours and must have at least eight hours of rest before working a new shift. Of course, in cases of crises when there is an increased risk to patient safety, exceptions may be made.


The hours nurses work compared to other professions across the country differ based on where they work, their job title, and whether they work part-time or full-time. On average, full-time employees work 40 hours per week, and part-time employees work 20-30 hours per week. In any industry, the number of hours worked may vary if there is a need to cover shifts due to other employees being out sick or on vacation or if there is an emergency or crisis situation. When there is a major health crisis, such as when the COVID-19 pandemic began, nurses often work longer hours to ensure the nurse-patient ratio for safety and effective care is met.


There are many types of registered nurse work schedules, and each requires a specific number of nurse work hours. The following are some of the different types of registered nurse work schedules and the pros and cons of each.

SCHEDULE #1: 8-hour Shift

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

8-hour shifts for registered nurses are the type of RN work schedules that require nurses to work eight hours per day. RNs who work in doctors’ offices or outpatient clinics or those in management positions often work eight-hour shifts.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• RNs who work 8-hour shifts typically work the same shift and days each week, so there is no guessing what the next week or month will be like.
• 8-hour shifts make it easier for nurses to create a healthier work/life balance.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• If you are an RN working a full-time job with 8-hour shifts, you will have fewer days off during the week.
• If your 8-hour shift is a Monday through Friday job, you may need to take time off work for doctors' appointments or to handle personal affairs. If you do not have paid time off, doing so could mean you do not get paid for the time you need to take off work.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

8-hour nursing shifts are an excellent option for nurses who have school-aged children, especially if their shifts are during the week, such as shifts at physicians’ offices. Registered nurses who like to have more free time often prefer 8-hour shifts, as well.

SCHEDULE #2: 10-hour Shift

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

10-hour shifts are another great option for RNs who need an extra day off during the week but prefer not to work 12-hour longer shifts.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• One of the advantages of working 10-hour shifts is you usually work four days and have three days off work.
• Working four 10-hour shifts each week means having an extra day off work so you can schedule personal appointments without affecting your pay.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• A 10-hour nursing shift is considered an extended workday, which increases your chances of becoming physically or mentally fatigued.
• Depending on state guidelines, employers may be required to pay overtime pay for any time over eight hours each workday, which could lead to increased labor costs for their organization.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

Any registered nurse who prefers an extra day off during the week could find working a 10-hour shift preferable. A few types of nurses who often work this type of shift are surgery nurses and outpatient care nurses.

SCHEDULE #3: 12-hour Shift

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

12-hour shifts are shifts where nurses work 12 hours and are off for at least 12 hours before their next shift. Many hospitals offer 12-hour shifts and have nurses who work exclusive days or exclusive nights. Other facilities may rotate days and nights among nurses who work 12-hour shifts.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• There are several advantages to working 12-hour nursing shifts. For example, RNs who work 12-hour shifts often experience improved family and social life because they have more days off to spend at home with family or friends.
• You can save money. Working fewer days each week means fewer days of driving to and from work, which can save you money on gas, upkeep for your car, and eating-out expenses.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• Your sleep schedule may be disrupted, especially at first. Registered nurses who work longer hours during the day, such as 12-hour shifts, may find getting adequate sleep is difficult. Lack of quality sleep can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.
• The days you work may leave little time for anything else. 12-hour nursing shifts have their benefits, but they also leave you with little time for anything other than catching a quick dinner and trying to get some rest for the next day.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

Nurses who prefer to have more days off during the week often opt for 12-hour shifts. In many cases, nurses working these shifts work three days a week and are off the remainder of the week. Some nurses may take per diem shifts on off days, but working more than 40 hours per week is usually not required unless there is some type of emergency or disaster.

SCHEDULE #4: Rotating Shift

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

A rotating nursing schedule is a type of schedule where nurses alternate between day and night shifts. Some facilities rotate nurses weekly or bi-weekly based on their patient census and available nursing staff.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• If your rotating shift falls on a night, weekend, or holiday, you could receive higher pay or benefits.
• You can schedule important appointments or events on the days that you work evenings or nights so that you do not have to miss work to handle personal business.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• One of the disadvantages of rotating shifts is that the constant change in schedules makes it difficult for some nurses to have a "normal" family life.
• If you work rotating shifts, you may not have the option for holidays or nights off.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

Nurses who enjoy evening activities but also have important appointments or events that occur during the day may find rotating shifts a good fit. Working rotating shifts means you can schedule appointments during the day when you work evenings or nights, and you can plan family outings or time with friends in the evening on days when you work the day shift.

SCHEDULE #5: Split Shift

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

A split shift is when the hours nurses work in one day are divided into separate work periods. For example, you may work from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM, then have a break and come back to work from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. A split shift may also occur when the days you work during the week are divided. For instance, some nurses work 3-1-3/7 shifts. With this shift, you would work three days, be off one day, work three more days, then be off seven days, and repeat the shift cycle.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• One of the benefits of working a split shift is if you need to run a few errands during the day, you can handle it during your hours off work.
• Split shifts have been shown to reduce stress and fatigue, which are major contributing factors to nurse burnout.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• Working a split shift may make it difficult to schedule appointments or handle business on the days you work.
• Depending on the days you work or hours you work, split shifts may leave little time to do much else during your work week.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

Although any nurse can work a split shift, it has been my experience that nurses who do not have young children or other family members who require their care are better suited for this type of schedule.


About This Nurse Work Schedule:

The PRN or pro re nata shift is designed for nurses who fill open shifts or positions on an as-needed basis. PRN nurses are often referred to as “on-call” nurses and are called upon to provide care when nurses are on leave or call in sick or when healthcare facilities are understaffed.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• One of the things I love about PRN nursing is it puts you in control of your schedule. If you want to work, you can take the shift(s) you are asked to cover, but if you do not, you will not be penalized.
• PRN nurses often make more money because they are filling an immediate need for nursing staff.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• You may be called at the last minute to cover a shift.
• PRN nurses work where they are needed and may not have the option of choosing a department or setting for their shifts.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

PRN nursing is an excellent option for nurses who want or need to work but who prefer to have more control of their schedules. Also, if you want to earn a good income without being committed to 40 hours or more of work each week, PRN nurse work hours offer the best of both worlds!

SCHEDULE #7: On-call

About This Nurse Work Schedule:

On-call nurse work hours are nursing schedules designed to ensure qualified nurses are available around the clock to respond to patient needs. On-call nurses are expected to be available during the entirety of their on-call shift and to be prepared to go to where patient care is needed. For example, home health or hospice on-call nurses may work nights and weekends and cover any unexpected visits clients need outside of normal business hours. On-call nurses who work for hospitals may be expected to be on standby to come in to cover shifts when other nurses become ill or when there is a rapid spike in admissions requiring more nurses.

2 Pros of This Schedule

• One of the main advantages of an on-call nurse schedule is that you receive on-call pay, even if you do not have to work and care for patients.
• Another advantage is that if you are called out to see patients, you may be compensated by a per-visit rate as well as your on-call pay.

2 Cons of This Schedule

• Perhaps the biggest con of working an on-call schedule is you are limited to how far away from your facility you may be during your on-call hours. Many healthcare facilities require on-call nurses to be within 15 minutes of their place of employment while working on-call.
• Another disadvantage of working an on-call nurse schedule is that, if you strictly work on-call schedules, you may not get enough hours to earn the pay you want.

For Whom is This Nurse Work Schedule Right:

Although any nurse can take on-call assignments, nurses who have fewer obligations outside of work are usually best suited for this type of schedule. The reason for this is that on-call nurses may be called out in the middle of the night or several times during their shift, and if they have other responsibilities that they cannot quickly leave, it makes completing an on-call assignment difficult.


(The following are the typical daily and weekly work hours of registered nurses in the 5 most common healthcare settings.)

SETTING #1: Hospitals

Registered nurses working in hospitals may work 8-, 12-or 16-hour shifts. Nurse work hours in hospitals vary and are typically based on whether you are part-time or full-time and your role in the hospital. For example, RNs who work in administrative positions may work typical office hours, Monday through Friday, from 8-5, while floor nurses may work 12- or 16-hour shifts and rotate days.

SETTING #2: Physician's Offices

If you are searching for a nursing job with a routine schedule that offers nights, weekends, and holidays off, working in a physician’s office could be a great option. RNs who work in physicians’ offices usually work Monday through Friday during the day. Some physicians’ offices may be open on Saturdays, but many are closed on weekends.

SETTING #3: Home Health Care

Home health agencies have regular office hours during which administrative and full-time registered nurses work, typically Monday through Friday during the day. Additionally, home health care centers employ RNs who work on-call or weekend rotations. Full-time staff usually work an average of 40 hours per week. The hours nurses who are part-time or PRN work may vary depending on how many patients require weekend or after-hours visits.

SETTING #4: Outpatient Care Centers

Outpatient care centers are among several work settings where registered nurses work. In this setting, RNs usually work five eight-hour shifts, typically Monday through Friday. In some cases, when outpatient clinics have extended service hours, RNs may work 10 or more hours per day.

SETTING #5:Nursing Care Facilities

Nursing care facilities are healthcare institutions certified to offer 24-hour patient care. In these settings, registered nurses work in both clinical and administrative positions. Supervisory or administrative registered nurses work typical office hours. RNs in clinical roles providing direct patient care work various shifts. Some nursing care facilities schedule eight- or twelve-hour shifts and may rotate night, weekend, and holiday work assignments.


(The following are the typical daily and weekly work hours of registered nurses in the 30 most common types of nursing jobs.)

JOB #1: Aesthetic Nurse

Aesthetic nurses provide elective healthcare services, such as dermabrasion, collagen replacement therapy, and non-surgical body contouring. Because these services are not emergency care, aesthetic nurse work hours usually occur during the week between 8 AM and 5 PM in most settings.

JOB #2: Cardiac Nurse

Cardiac patients need constant monitoring by experienced nursing staff. Full-time cardiac nurses usually work at least 40 hours per week and may work shifts that last eight or twelve hours, depending on the facility. Overnight and weekend shifts are also common among cardiac nurses.

JOB #3: Dialysis Nurse

Although schedules vary, dialysis nurse work hours are usually long, with many dialysis centers requiring 12-hour shifts. One of the perks of working longer shifts is that you may enjoy more days off. For instance, dialysis nurses often work three 12-hour shifts and have four days off each week. If you dislike early mornings, though, dialysis may not be the best option, as many dialysis nurses begin work around 5 AM.

JOB #4: ER Nurse

Emergency room nurses often have schedules outside of the normal 9-5 office schedule. Registered nurses in the ER typically work 12-hour shifts and work on nights, weekends, and holidays. If you land a job as an ER nursing supervisor, you may have a more regular schedule with little or no nights, weekends, or holidays.

JOB #5: Flight Nurse

Flight nurses typically work two 24-hour shifts each week. The flight nurse’s schedule typically requires being on call for the entire 24-48 hours and being able to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice. Some flight nurses may work more than two shifts each week, but that option is at the employer’s discretion, as any time over 40 hours may be subject to overtime pay.

JOB #6: Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses work various schedules, depending on the setting where they are employed. Many forensic nurses work in emergency rooms or sexual assault centers where they perform SANEs (Sexual Assault Nurse Examinations), and in these settings, they may be on call working as needed during the day or night. Other forensic nurses work as legal nurse consultants and may work typical office hours.

JOB #7: Geriatric Nurse

Like other hours nurses work, geriatric nurse’s work hours are determined by their work setting and job title. Geriatric RNs providing direct patient care may work 8- or 12-hour shifts and may rotate between days, nights, evenings, or weekend schedules. If you are a registered nurse working in a geriatric care setting as an administrator or Director of Nursing, you will likely work Monday through Friday like other administrative staff.

JOB #8: Home Health Nurse

Registered nurses who work as full-time home health nurses commonly work daytime hours during the week. Home health agencies also employ RNs to cover scheduled weekend visits, such as visits for new patient admits, discharges, or wound care. Some RNs working at home health agencies opt to work PRN nights, weekends, and holidays.

JOB #9: Hospice Nurse

Hospice care providers offer a variety of services. Therefore, the registered nurse’s job title and assigned role will determine the work hours. Like home health agencies, hospices usually have full-time staff who work Monday through Friday during the day. Hospice patients are patients with a terminal diagnosis, which means they may require the services of a hospice nurse outside of normal business hours. Hospice agencies may hire RNs who strictly work PRN evenings, nights, or weekends, or they may rotate on-call schedules between staff registered nurses.

JOB #10: ICU Nurse

Intensive care units function 24 hours a day, which means nurses are needed round the clock. Most ICU nurses work 12-hour shifts. One of my friends works in an intensive care unit that offers the RNs the option of working three 12-hour shifts or two 12-hour and two 8-hour shifts each week. I have found that many ICUs have this option because working fewer days in such an intense setting helps reduce the risk of burnout.

JOB #11: Labor And Delivery Nurse

Labor and Delivery nurses not only have good work hours, but there are other advantages to choosing the type of nursing, such as earning a great income! As far as the work hours for labor and delivery nurses, schedules vary based on where you work. L&D registered nurses who work in hospital labor and delivery units usually work 8- or 12-hour shifts. Some labor and delivery nurses work in birthing centers and may alternate day and night shifts.

JOB #12: Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal registered nurses work shifts similar to other intensive or critical care nurses, usually 12 hours. While some facilities make exceptions to this type of schedule, most prefer 12-hour shifts because they promote consistent care for some of the most fragile patient populations. Some neonatal RNs may be required to work on-call shifts in addition to their regular schedules, especially if qualified neonatal nurses are in short supply.

JOB #13: Nurse Administrator

One of the advantages of working as a nurse administrator is that you have a great schedule. Nurse administrators work typical office hours, usually Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 or 9 to 5. In some cases, if there is an emergency within the facility or a disaster that could impact facility operations, the nurse administrator may be called in to work. However, the average nurse work hours for nursing administrators are 40 hours per week during the day, with weekends and holidays off.

JOB #14: Nurse Consultant

Nurse consultants provide consultation services designed to improve nursing and health care services and standards of care. Most nurse consultants work weekdays from 8 to 5. However, depending on the type of consultation you are asked to perform, your hours may vary. For example, I worked as a nurse consultant for a corporation that owned several nursing homes and hospice agencies in three states. In that job, I would go to the facilities during different shifts to observe nursing care and review records before preparing consultation reports to provide to administrators and owners.

JOB #15: Nurse Manager

Nurse managers supervise teams of nurses working various shifts. Most nurse managers work eight-hour shifts. Some nurse managers work day shifts, while others work evenings or nights. Depending on the type of facility and patient census, some nurse managers may work 12-hour shifts.

JOB #16: Nurse Navigator

Nurse navigators are responsible for educating patients, connecting patients with available resources, and providing information about treatment options. Nurse navigators work in diverse healthcare settings, from small clinics to large hospitals and healthcare corporations, with many working in specialized critical care areas. Nurse navigators typically work 40-hour work weeks and usually have weekday schedules. However, if you work in a larger healthcare facility or for a hospice or home health agency, you may work some evenings or weekend shifts, depending on your client’s needs.

JOB #17: Nurse Recruiter

Nurse recruiters generally work during what is considered regular business hours. Nurse recruiters typically work full-time, which means the hours nurses work in this position are usually 40 hours per week. Most nurse recruiters work 8-hour days, Monday through Friday.

JOB #18: Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational health nurses work with employers and employees to promote safe working conditions. Most occupational health nurses work Monday through Friday during the day. However, nurse work hours in this setting may vary based on the type of work environment and job duties.

JOB #19: Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses who work full-time usually work 40 hours each week. Oncology nurse's work hours in hospitals may be 8- or 12-hour shifts on the oncology floor. If you work in a cancer treatment center, you may have more of a typical office schedule, working Monday through Friday with nights and weekends off work.

JOB #20: Orthopedic Nurse

The hours nurses work when specializing in orthopedics depends on the setting where they are employed. Orthopedic nurses who work in orthopedic surgery work a variety of shifts lasting between 8 and 12 hours, depending on the number of surgeries scheduled. Some orthopedic nurses work in orthopedic outpatient clinics where the schedule is usually Monday through Friday during the day.

JOB #21: Pain Management Nurse

The most common work schedule for pain management nurses is Monday through Friday during the day, as most work in pain management clinics. Other settings where you may work as a pain management nurse include rehabilitation facilities, private physicians’ offices, sports medicine clinics, or hospitals. Although most pain management nurses work typical office hours, those working in hospitals may work varying shifts. Also, if you work in a clinic setting, there may be times when you are called out to see a patient after hours.

JOB #22: Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurse work hours vary based on where you work. I once worked for a university medical center in its pediatric outpatient clinic and worked Monday through Friday, 8-5, with nights, weekends, and holidays off. If you work in a hospital setting, such as on a pediatric floor or pediatric intensive care unit, you may work rotating schedules. Most floor nurses and PICU nurses work 12-hour shifts, but the schedule is determined by the facility where you are employed.

JOB #23: Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurses work in diverse settings, each with their own schedules. For instance, psychiatric nurses who work in substance abuse rehabilitation facilities often work 8-hour shifts, either during the day, evening, or night. Psychiatric nurses who work in hospitals or inpatient psychiatric units are more likely to work 12-hour shifts.

JOB #24: Public Health Nurse

Because many public health nurses work for local, state, or federal governments or in academic or research settings, most public health nurses work hours are 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday. However, schedules may vary based on where you work and what your job involves. For example, some public health nurses conducting research may work weekends or evenings, depending on the type of research they are conducting.

JOB #25: Radiology Nurse

If you are interested in becoming a radiology nurse, weighing the pros and cons as well as the required hours you must work can help you decide if it is a good fit for you. Radiology nurses in both hospitals and outpatient settings typically work daytime shifts during the week. Some facilities may employ radiology nurses to work evening or night shifts, especially if the facility is large and serves a large patient population. Otherwise, scheduled procedures that require a nurse are usually reserved for daytime appointments.

JOB #26: Rehabilitation Nurse

The work hours for rehabilitation nurses, like most others, depend on the setting. Rehabilitation nurses who work in outpatient rehab facilities usually work Monday through Friday during the day. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities provide round-the-clock patient care. Many nursing homes have skilled nursing units where patients are admitted for short-term inpatient rehabilitation. Rehab nurses who work in these facilities may work 8- or 12-hour shifts, rotating weekend and holiday assignments.

JOB #27: School Nurse

School nurse work hours are some of the best, especially for those with school-aged children. School nurses work Monday through Friday, 8-3. If you are a school nurse who works with a large school system, you may work some days during the summer preparing for the upcoming school year and the routine health screenings school nurses provide. However, most school nurses are off most, if not all, summer and enjoy holidays off to be with family.

JOB #28: Staff Nurse

Staff nurses work different schedules based on the facility where they are on staff. For example, staff nurses in hospitals usually work 12-hour shifts, while staff nurses employed by physicians' offices or outpatient clinics typically work Monday through Friday, 8-5. Some staff nurses work rotating or split shifts, while others have a set schedule each week.

JOB #29: Surgical Nurse

Some surgical nurses work in outpatient surgery clinics where they work 8- or 12-hour shifts, depending on the number of cases scheduled each day. Surgical nurses who work in hospital surgery usually work 12-hour shifts. If you work as a surgical nurse in a hospital setting, you may be required to be on call throughout the day or at night in case of emergencies.

JOB #30: Telemetry Nurse

Patients on the telemetry floor require 24-hour monitoring, which means telemetry nurses must be present all hours of the day and night. Some hospitals allow telemetry nurses to work 8-hour shifts, working either days, evenings, or nights, while others have 12-hour shift options. Some hospitals have both 8- and 12-hour shifts available and allow nurses to choose a schedule that best suits their needs.


While individual jobs have different work hours, as a registered nurse, you do have a say in the number of hours worked. You may prefer to work part-time or full-time based on your needs and goals. Just keep in mind that although you have the right to decide how many hours you want to work, employers are not obligated to change their schedules for you. I recommend thinking about how much time you want to dedicate to work and looking for jobs that offer schedules aligned with what you want.


Several factors influence the hours nurses work. The following are five main factors that determine the hours you will work as a registered nurse.

FACTOR #1: The Nurse’s Preference

The main factor that influences nurse work hours is the nurse's preference. Part-time nurses may work 20 to 30 hours each week. Full-time nurses typically work 40-hour work weeks. Also, nurses may opt to work 8-, 12-, or 16-hour shifts or work split or rotating shifts.

FACTOR #2: The Number of Patients Requiring Care

Many healthcare facilities schedule nurses based on patient census and their need to meet appropriate nurse/patient ratios. In facilities where the census is low, nurse hours may be cut or limited. In facilities where there is a high patient census, nurses may be asked to work overtime or extra shifts.

FACTOR #3: Type of Setting Where Employed

Another factor that influences the hours nurses work is where they work. For example, nurses who work in physicians’ offices or other outpatient clinics usually work typical office hours, which are Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. Hospitals, nursing homes, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities, on the other hand, need nurses around the clock. In these settings, nurses may work during the day, evening, or night and are usually required to work weekends and holidays.

FACTOR #4: The Nurse’s Position at Work

Your position as a nurse also has a lot to do with the number of hours you are required to work or which shift you work. Nurses who work in administrative positions, such as the Director of Nursing or Chief Nursing Officer, work business office hours. Nurse managers and team leaders may work a specific shift or rotating shifts. Nurses who work on the floor or in a clinic may also work rotating shifts, split shifts, or designated day, evening, or night shifts.

FACTOR #5: The Number of Available Nursing Staff

It is no secret that there is a nationwide shortage of nurses. In fact, research conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing revealed that 100,000 nurses left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic and that almost 900,000 plan to leave the workforce by 2027. Nursing shortages have led to many hospitals and other healthcare facilities increasing the nurse hours worked, even if only temporarily, to ensure there are enough qualified nurses to provide patient care.


Sometimes, choosing which nursing schedule is right for you is easy, but because patient care is so important, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are several things to consider when deciding which nursing schedule you prefer. The following are seven ways to know which schedule is right for you.

WAY #1: Think About How Much Time You Want to Dedicate to Work

The first step in deciding which nursing schedule is right for you is to determine how much time you want to spend working. Some nurses want full-time pay but prefer to have more days off work than at work. In that case, you may find that working three 12-hour or two 16-hour shifts gives you a nice paycheck as well as the ability to have three or four days off work each week. On the other hand, if you like shorter workdays, you may enjoy working in a physician’s office or clinic where the schedule is usually Monday through Friday with 8-hour days and holidays off.

WAY #2: Determine When You Feel Most Productive

I hate to admit it, but I am definitely not a night owl. Although I have worked my share of night shifts as a nurse, I feel more energized and productive working during the day when the hustle and bustle of patient care and other activities are at their peak. Some nurses, though, feel working evening or night shifts allows them to be more productive because there is less distraction. Knowing what schedule works for you as far as productivity is an excellent way to decide which nursing schedule is best suited for you.

WAY #3: Consider Your Responsibilities Outside of Work

Another thing to think about when trying to decide which nurse work hours are best for you is what other responsibilities you have. For instance, if you have children or other family members who rely on you for care, you may need a schedule that is predictable with little variation versus rotating or split shifts or days with long hours.

WAY #4: Choose a Setting Where You Prefer to Work

Knowing where you want to work can give you a better idea of the available schedules and help you decide the one that is the best fit for you. If you want to work in a doctor’s office or clinic, your scheduling options may be limited. However, if you plan to work in a hospital or other inpatient care facility, you could choose to work days, evenings, or nights and may have the option of working 8- or 12-hour shifts.

WAY #5: What Schedule Offers the Most Opportunities for Growth and Development?

One thing I love to stress about nursing is that the field is ever-growing and expanding. As such, it is up to us as nurses to seek ways to grow and develop in our trade. If you want to learn new skills or have opportunities to advance, think about the schedule that offers the best chances of that happening. For instance, if you aspire to become a Director of Nursing, working rotating shifts as a clinical nurse is an excellent way to gain experience and become familiar with the roles and responsibilities of nurses who work each of these shifts.

WAY #6: Do You Want to Maximize Your Earning Potential?

There are several ways to maximize your earning potential in nursing. In fact, my colleague and fellow author, Brittney Bertagna, BSN, RN, shares 18 Tips to Make Six Figures as a Nurse in one of the articles she wrote. A simple way to earn extra money is to take the shifts that other nurses do not want, such as working evenings or nights. You can earn extra money by taking these shifts because many healthcare facilities offer shift differential pay. In these cases, nurses who work evening shifts earn more than nurses who work the day shift, and night nurses make more than evening nurses. This pay difference is a nice incentive to attract nurses to work shifts that other nurses may find less favorable. If you do not prefer one schedule more than another and like the idea of maximizing your earnings, choosing a nursing schedule with an evening or night shift could be an excellent option.

WAY #7: Do You Prefer Specific Days Off?

Many nurses choose work schedules that allow them to be off work on days that are important to them. For example, nurses who believe the Sabbath is a day for church or rest may prefer a work schedule that does not require them to work on Sundays. Other nurses may enjoy working nights or weekends so they can have time off during the week, which makes it easier to schedule personal appointments, go shopping without the crowds, or simply unwind.


Becoming a nurse is an awesome career opportunity. You can choose different specialties, work settings, and schedules based on your preference. As you research different nursing opportunities, it is normal to wonder, "How many hours do nurses work?” In this article, I shared information with you about the number of hours registered nurses work in various roles and settings and gave you some information about different nursing shifts and their pros and cons. With this information, you can weigh your options to decide which schedule is best for you.


1. Do Registered Nurses Work Every Day?

Registered nurse schedules are based on location, job title, and whether the role is part-time or full-time. Some RNs work several days in a row, but all jobs are required to offer time off from work.

2. How Many Hours Do Registered Nurses Work In A Day?

Registered nurse work hours vary. Some RNs work 8-, 10, 12-, or 16-hour shifts. Other RNs, such as flight nurses, may work 24-hour shifts.

3. How Many Hours Do Registered Nurses Work In A Week?

The number of hours nurses work in a week is usually determined by whether they work part-time, full-time, or PRN. Some nurses work as few as 15 or 20 hours a week. Others work 40 hours or more.

4. How Many Hours Do Registered Nurses Work In A Month?

Registered nurse work hours per month vary based on job title, preferred shift, and employment status. Some nurses work 160 hours or more each month. Others work 80 hours or less, depending on their preference of schedules.

5. Do Nurses Work On Weekends?

Some nurses work on weekends. Weekend shifts are more common in hospitals, nursing homes, inpatient facilities, or for on-call nurses who work for home health and hospice agencies.

6. What Does A Nursing Shift Mean?

A nursing shift is the designated time and number of hours nurses work on any given day or pay period.

7. How Long Are Nursing Shifts?

Nursing shifts vary in length. Some nursing shifts are as short as eight hours, while others may last 18 hours or longer.

8. What Time Do Nurses Change Shifts?

Shift change times vary, depending on the facility and the length of the shifts for the nurse work hours. For example, facilities that have 12-hour nursing shifts usually operate with shifts that last from 7 AM to 7 PM, followed by a 7 PM to 7 AM shift. Some facilities have eight-hour shifts that may be scheduled from 7 AM to 3 PM (day shift), 3 PM to 11 PM (evening shift), and 11 PM TO 7 AM (night shift).

9. Do All Nurses Work 12-Hour Shifts?

No, all nurses do not work 12-hour shifts. Some nurses work fewer hours per shift, and others work longer shifts.

10. Why Do Nurses Work 12-Hour Shifts?

Some registered nurses choose nurse work hours scheduled as 12-hour shifts because this schedule allows for more time off during the week versus working five 8-hour shifts.

11. How Many 12-Hour Shifts A Week Do Nurses Work?

Full-time nurses often work three 12-hour shifts each week. Some RNs opt to work two 12-hour shifts and two 8-hour shifts to make sure they get 40 hours each week.

12. Can A Nurse Work More Than 16 Hours A Day?

In some cases, such as with flight nurses, a registered nurse may work more than 16 hours a day. However, in consideration of patient and employee safety, it is recommended that healthcare organizations do not promote or require nurses to work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period.

13. Do Nurses Work 24-Hours Shifts?

Nurses who work on-call schedules may be considered as working 24-hour shifts, although they may not actually be providing patient care for the whole 24-hour period.

14. How Many Hours A Week Do Part-Time Nurses Work?

Nurses who work 30 hours or less per week are typically classified as part-time workers.

15. How Many Hours A Week Do Full-Time Nurses Work?

The nurse work hours for full-time nurses usually range between 36 and 40 hours weekly.

16. How Many Hours Do Per Diem Nurses Work?

There is no set amount of nurse work hours for per diem nurses. Because there is such a high demand for nurses nationwide, many per diem nurses have the option of choosing their own hours.

17. How Many Hours Do Contract Nurses Work?

In most cases, contract nurses work 40 hours per week. If you work as a contract nurse, you may work five 8-hour shifts or four 10-hour shifts, depending on the facility’s guidelines and needs and your preference.

18. Do Nurses Often Work More Than Their Scheduled Hours?

Some nurses do work more than their scheduled hours. A few examples would be filling in for sick coworkers or taking on an extra shift when the patient census is high. It is important to verify overtime protocol before agreeing to work extra hours and get approval from your supervisor before working any hours that require overtime pay.

19. Can A Nurse Be Forced To Stay At Work?

When nurses are forced to stay at work, this is considered mandatory overtime. Many states have passed legislation on mandatory overtime. Although laws vary by state, new state laws and legislative policies now make it easier for nurses in those states to refuse mandatory overtime without fear of losing their jobs.

20. Do Nurses Receive Overtime Pay For Working More Than Their Scheduled Hours?

The Fair Labor Standard Overtime Laws state that “overtime pay may be necessary when nurses work more than 40 hours during the course of one workweek.” Also, some states have enacted laws related to overtime pay and designating the number of hours a nurse may work within a 24-hour period before overtime pay is mandatory.

21. Do Nurses Usually Work Weekends?

Some healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, inpatient rehabs, or other 24-hour care facilities, require nurses to work round the clock, including weekends.

22. Do Nurses Get Holidays?

Some nurses get holidays off work if they work in a setting that is closed on holidays. Nurses who are required to work on holidays may be offered a holiday pay incentive.

23. How Many Hours Do Nurses Work On Christmas?

The number of hours nurses work on Christmas is determined by the facility where the nurse works. Many employers require nurses to work their regular shifts on Christmas day. Others offer options to split shifts with other nurses to give each nurse time with their family or loved ones.

24. How Many Hours Do Student Nurses Work?

The number of student nurse work hours depends on their school’s guidelines and the guidelines of the host clinical site. In many cases, clinical practicums last between 8 and 12 hours per day, much like a typical nurse’s work hours.

25. Do Flexible Schedules Benefit Only Nurses, Or Does It Even Benefit The Hospital?

In my experience, I have seen that flexible schedules benefit both nurses and the hospital or other facility where they work. Flexible work schedules are often less stressful for nurses who are working, which means less burnout, fewer callouts for work, and better nurse performance, which benefits nurses, patients, and healthcare facilities.

Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).