How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?

NursingNovember 18, 2013

According to a December 2022 Gallup poll, nurses have been recognized as the most trusted professionals in the nation for more than 20 years in a row. These hard-working individuals put their licenses to good use every day, making their trust well earned. The vast majority of nursing hours are spent in direct patient care settings, and their work hours are as varied as the expectations placed on them.

Individuals interested in becoming licensed nurses may be curious about how many hours nurses typically work. Nurses have several options when it comes to their hours. For example, while some nurses prefer to work three 12-hour shifts per week, others prefer to work five eight-hour shifts per week. To learn more about nursing schedules, prospective nurses can enroll in a nurse training program. Completing a nursing degree or diploma program can prepare individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to work in a variety of settings and scheduling environments.

Factors That Impact a Nurse’s Work Hours

The number of hours nurses work can vary widely based on several factors. For example, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) employed by doctor’s offices may work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. On the other hand, nurses employed by facilities that provide 24-hour care, such as hospitals, may need to work night, weekend, holiday, and on-call shifts.


The work setting for RNs and LPNs is the most important variable in determining their work hours. For example, in physician practices, clinics, and schools, nursing hours generally consist of five eight-hour daytime shifts during the workweek.

In contrast, full-time nurses working on hospital nursing units typically work three 12-hour shifts or five eight-hour shifts per week. The need for round-the-clock coverage in a hospital means these nurses often work nights, weekends, and holidays, usually on a rotating basis. The same holds true for nurses working in most nursing homes and hospice centers, as well as for home health nurses. Nurses who are willing to work unpopular shifts are in high demand, and they may be paid a higher hourly rate due to the shift differential. 


Nursing hours can vary depending on the nurse’s level of responsibility. Nurses in administrative or supervisory roles are often asked to work longer shifts to handle necessary administrative tasks.

Most individuals in these roles work in salaried positions, meaning their compensation isn’t tied to the number of days or hours they work. Although not a hard and fast rule, the majority of administrative nurses work eight-hour shifts, Monday through Friday. Some nurses in supervisory positions need to pitch in with direct care work when the unit gets short-handed, and those hours can vary. Independent case managers and consultants are the exception to the rule because they usually determine their own hours.

Job Structure

Most nurses work either full time or part time, while others may work as needed to fill any number of positions. Many nurses choose to work overtime hours or second jobs due to the high demand in the field. 

Depending on the organization they work for, and the state they’re working in, RNs and LPNs working overtime shifts often earn one and a half hours of pay for each overtime hour worked. Nurses called in for a crisis or to work on a holiday can even make two hours of pay for every hour worked.

On-Call Shift Requirements

Nurses employed by facilities that provide 24-hour care may need to work on-call shifts. An on-call shift is a period of time when a nurse remains off-site, but must be available to come into work in the event of an emergency. These situations may include an unforeseen staffing shortage or a multicar vehicle accident that requires the facility to call in additional personnel. 

Nurses working on-call shifts must carry a pager or cellphone at all times, and they must be ready to report to work at a moment’s notice. 

How Many Hours Does a Nurse Typically Work?

The actual number of hours RNs and LPNs work can range from four to 12 hours per day and 20 to 60 hours per week, and those hours can range across a varying number of days.

How Many Hours a Week Does a Nurse Work?

RNs and LPNs working part-time hours generally work 20 hours or less per week, while professionals working full-time hours often work between 36 and 40 hours per week. Nurses interested in picking up overtime shifts may work up to 60 hours per week, depending on how many shifts they want to pick up.

How Many Days a Week Does a Nurse Work?

The number of days per week that nurses work generally depends on the facility type and whether they work full- or part-time hours. Nurses employed by facilities that keep standard, weekday business hours may work five days per week, whereas nurses working at facilities that operate 24/7 may be permitted to work three 12-hour shifts, four 10-hour shifts, or five eight-hour shifts per week. 

Earn a Nursing Credential and Start Working as a Full-Time or Part-Time Nurse

Interested in learning more about how many hours nurses work and how to become a nurse? To develop the specialized knowledge and skills needed to be successful, prospective nurses can enroll in a nursing school program such as a practical nursing or Associate Degree in Nursing program. 

Are you ready to take the next step toward becoming a licensed nurse? Discover how earning a nursing degree from Fortis can prepare you for the next chapter in your career.

Recommended Readings
How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse
6 Essential Clinical Nursing Skills
How to Become an ER Nurse

American Nurses Association, Nurse Schedules: Pros and Cons of 12-Hour Shifts
CareerStaff Unlimited, “Understanding the Different Types of Nursing Shifts”
Gallup, “Nurses Retain Top Ethics Rating in U.S., but Below 2020 High” 
Indeed, “Nurse Schedules: Pros, Cons and Tips”
Indeed, “What Is Nursing Administration? Duties and Certifications”
Monster, “How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?”