How do nurses work 24-hour shifts

24 hour shift

24 hour shift definition

Shift work is common in many industries. Usually, the shift supervisor divides the working hours into early shift, late shift or night shift in a shift plan within a 24-hour shift model. According to Section 3 of the Working Hours Act, the working day may not actually exceed 8 hours, in exceptional cases 10 hours.

When is a 24-hour shift allowed?

However, under certain circumstances a 24-hour shift is allowed. This is what happens in practice especially in work areas where people need to be looked after around the clock. As a doctor in the hospital, in nursing, in social work with children and adolescents, in the fire brigade or in the rescue service.

Legally, these cases are covered by Section 7 (1) of the Working Hours Act. It says here that working hours may be extended beyond the maximum limit of 10 hours if "Regular and substantial work readiness or on-call duty falls into working hours". Due to the high mental and physical challenges that such a service brings with it, it is not undisputed. Whether an extra long shift makes sense often depends on the specific occupation. If a shift consists largely of on-call duty, as is the case with emergency paramedics, for example, a 24-hour shift can even serve to reduce the workload.

24 hour shift in the practice

What are the advantages of a 24-hour shift?

Sometimes long work shifts can be, as stressful as they can be for the body and the mind, various advantages entail:

  • Due to the longer working hours, there are fewer handovers that have to be organized.
  • Of course, there must always be an adequate rest period after 24-hour shifts. With this model, in contrast to regular shift work, longer periods of relaxation can be observed between shifts to compensate for this, since the legally prescribed 40 hours are usually provided by two 24-hour shifts a week.
  • Overall, employees have more free time. Despite shift work, free weekends are usually possible.
  • Travel times and costs are reduced, since fewer journeys to work have to be made overall.

Problems of a 24-hour shift

Studies show that excessive working hours in shift work more often lead to stress and stress-related symptoms of illness. The reason for this is high emotional and physical stress. However, it always depends on the specific individual case. The burden of long shifts is probably significantly higher for a nurse than that of a paramedic in rural areas, who have a significantly lower proportion of workload. In purely economic terms, such services often make little sense. Because due to the stress and lack of sleep, the employees are at some point hardly able to work and tend to make more mistakes.

Work and rest

In the so-called opening model, which combines full work and on-call duty, so that shifts of up to 24 hours are possible concrete regulations for working and break times. A maximum of 10 hours of full work is still possible within 24 hours. As with any activity, a statutory break of 45 minutes is due. Adjacent to the on-call duty, there must be a rest period of at least 11 hours after a 24-hour shift until another shift or on-call duty begins.