- Staggered shifts—Nurses who want to be full time but not work more than two 12-hours shifts in a row could take two 12-hour shifts and two eight hour shifts, which gives them three days off (and five evenings) to be with family and friends each week
- Group sharing—A group of nurses bands together and signs up for eight-hour shifts, but they match each other to ensure the entire 24 hours are covered
- Peak-time shifts—Eight-hour, four-hour, two-hour-shifts—or any combination—make a huge difference on units during busy hours
- Multi-task shifts—Combine roles within a regular shift, such as four-hours patient care, two hours precepting and mentoring new nurses, and two hours in committee work
- Job sharing—Two or more nurses split a full-time schedule
Of course, one of the biggest barriers may be nurses themselves. Many like being able to work a full time job in only three days and have a long period of time off, which is especially attractive to young generation Y nurses who place high value on having a work-life balance. Twelve-hour shifts are a relatively new invention, however, and nurses used to be just fine working eight-hour shifts.
If we accept the fact that nurse fatigue is a serious issue, then eliminating 12-hour shifts seem like an obvious place to start.
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Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com
and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org