Nurse Hours

I wanted to do a post explaining how nurses hours work. I try to make sure I have this conversation with my nursing students before I set them free into the nursing world because it can be difficult to understand.

A lot of nurses work in FTEs. Each 0.1 FTE is 4 hours. For example I work a 0.9 FTE that means I work 36 hours in one week or 72 hours in one pay period. (9×4=36)

If I was a 1.0 FTE I would work 40 hours in one week.

If I were to be part time I would usually only work a 0.6 FTE and I would only work 24 hours per week or 2 – 12 hour shifts.

Usually positions that work below a 0.75 FTE (depending on the organization) are not eligible for full time benefits or they have to pay more for their benefits that they receive. Sometimes when you are new, your only option is to wait until a full time FTE opens up to get all of the hours you want and take a lesser FTE like a 0.6 to get your foot in the door.

I personally enjoy working my three days a week and then having the other four off. If you were to group all of your days together, for example, if you work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday you would have the next week off because you worked all of your 72 hours in one week which is what I’m doing this week.

As I’m trekking through a long week of work – here’s a glimpse into my work schedule:

Monday – 12 hours – day shift

Tuesday – 12 hours – day shift

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 12 hours – overnights – that’s working the next 6/7 days – a 72 hour work week.

It also gives you an opportunity to pick up major overtime in your scheduled week off. I’m averaging 48 hours a week for December with my overtime.

Various organizations have incentives to pick up extra hours. Sometimes you can earn $3-$4 an hour extra just for picking up a shift but you can earn time and a half every hour worked over 80 hours.

There are also weekend package options which is where you work 4/5 or 5/6 weekends – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they are eligible for full time benefits, and then earn either time and a half or a dollar amount more per hour depending on the organization.

We do self scheduling where I work and I love it. A blank schedule goes out, all nurses take the time to fill in which hours/days you’d like to work, and then it gets tweaked by our supervisor. I would say I get 90% of the shifts I write down or sign up for. There isn’t much overlap because we are all on different weekend rotations.

You would think this would be a difficult way to schedule nurses but it actually works out great. Many of our nurses WANT overnights and many WANT day shift. Personally, I’m a flip flopper. I don’t like to work only days or only nights so I usually end up working Monday and Tuesday day shift and Thursday night overnights with my every third weekend rotation.

We call it “hell week” at work because if you work all of your shifts in a pay period in one week you get the next week off completely without taking PTO which is great!

It’s also nice because I can still take a week off of work for a vacation without having to use my paid time off. I just schedule myself accordingly but that may also mean I work the “hell week.”

I’m sharing this with you just to give you some more information on how nurses “crazy hours” actually aren’t that crazy and they definitely have their perks!

In conclusion, to my nursing friends, I want you to consider and ask a few questions before you take a new job with new hours:

Do they consider seniority when making the schedule?

How many weekends will I work?

Is there an opportunity to decrease FTEs to part time?

On average, how long does it take to get the shifts/schedules I want? (for example, does it take several years of night shift to get seniority to move to day shift?)

How many FTEs do I have to work to gain full time benefits?

What works best with my family’s schedules?

How long am I willing to work the shift I don’t want to work to get to the shift I want to work?

That’s all I have for today folks! I hope this is helpful!

P.S. I also wanted to touch on what it means to be PRN – PRN means AS NEEDED. Many nurses, when transitioning to a new job stay PRN at their old job which means they can still pick up hours and they are still an employee of the hospital. You can have a full time job and work PRN somewhere and pick up hours!



  1. Carolyn Sullivan
    December 3, 2019 / 11:21 pm

    PERSONALLY, as an RN, I HATE what they have done to nursing, and medical assistants with the scheduling. YES they can cover a 24 hour day w less nurses, but they also don’t have to pay the benefits out. THAT is what I think is the real reason for it. One hospital I worked for everyone had a 8hour day (8.5 actually) but they would schedule a 7 day stretch once a month “so that you can have 3 days OFF” Dang I would be so exhausted it would take me 1-2 days to get rested…. ruined my W/E I started trading my Friday’s of the 3day w/e for a Tuesday or a Wed. So much easier. I also had a small child then.

  2. Cindy
    December 4, 2019 / 1:31 am

    What does FTE mean?

    • Susan the Farm Quilter
      December 4, 2019 / 3:38 am

      Cindy, I think it means Full Time Employment. Every job seems to have its own acronyms that are so “normal” to them that they forget those of us who are not in that field are not necessarily exposed to those acronyms. As a retired special education teacher, I can throw acronyms with the best of them, until my daughters in the military start talking, then I’m lost!!

    • December 4, 2019 / 2:48 pm

      Full Time Equivalent. All headcount budgets in any organization are done in FTE’s.

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