5 Tips For Nurses Who Struggle With Working Extra Shifts

4 Min Read Published February 25, 2023
5 Tips For Nurses Who Struggle With Working Extra Shifts

I don’t know about you, but as a nurse who works full-time, working extra these days is something that I’d prefer not to do.  From being short staffed, not having enough resources, to high taxes and list of other reason - a lot of time I pass on extra shifts. 

Of course, we’ve all had those times where we want to work extra. Picking up extra shifts is a great tool to pay off debt or make a large purchase. Sometimes I’ll event work extra so I can have a group of days off in a row to follow. Many times I’ll work extra because I simply enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. 

You Are Not Responsible For the “Nursing Shortage”

But back to those times when we don’t want to work extra – NEVER feel guilty for saying NO. Sometimes the staffing office or leadership will throw a guilt trip. Don’t buy into it. 

You are not responsible for the nursing shortage. Neither are you responsible for solving it. 

Nurses are very compassionate people and care about others. Whether it’s our patients or our colleagues - we don’t want anyone to experience pain or unnecessary suffering. It is extremely painful to work short staffed, to not get a break, not be able to grab a drink when you’re thirsty or not make a quick phone call to book a dental appointment. Let’s not forget, working out of ratio or working with high acuity patients is very taxing physically and mentally. 

You are not a bad nurse for not wanting to pick up extra shifts. Even when the staffing office says you’re their last resort, you need to recognize that’s simply not true. That’s just one tactic of applying peer pressure in a last-ditch effort to guilt you into picking up a shift.  

Remember this - there are travel nursing agencies, staffing agencies, the float pool, per diem staff, on-call staff and other options to limit census. 

5 Tips To Respond When Ask To Work Extra Shifts

Feel empowered in knowing that by working full-time, you’ve already fulfilled your commitment to the organization. There is no need to unnecessarily stretch yourself thin. You deserve and need time off to recharge your batteries. Not doing so can expedite nurse burnout. 

So how can you respond when you’re asked to work extra and don’t really want to?

  1. Don’t answer the phone: If it’s your day off and your employer rings your phone or texts you to work – don’t answer the phone. Let their call go to voicemail. It’s okay to leave their text message on read. Get back to them if you’d like but its not required to do so on your day off. You are not obligated to communicate or do any work-related business on your day off. And that includes answering calls, doing online modules, and reading work texts or email. 

  2. Don’t make a decision right away - if you’re at work and asked in person to work extra – you don’t have to answer right away. Thank them for the request to work extra but let them know you’re in the middle of patient care and would like to get back to them. Let them know you need to check your schedule or with your family before you can commit. Just make sure you get back to them before the end of the day. There is no need to explain why you’re not available. 
  3. Monetary incentives - if you’re considering accepting the shift, don’t accept the assignment on impulse unless you’re sure. The hospital has a need. You are highly valued as a nurse. The fact that they asked you shows that the employer is desperate. This may be an opportunity to negotiate. 

Ask if there are any monetary incentives for picking up an extra shift and allow them time to answer – if even that means there’s some awkward silence while you wait.  If they say no, tell them you will have to get back to them. This plants the seed that you’re considering it but only if there is an incentive. If they’re really in need – they’re circle back with the incentive. 

  1. Shift swap - another incentive that is worth asking is for a shift swap. Ask if work tonight, can you have Friday off? Let them know you may be available if you can swap the shift.  The hospital’s immediate need must be met. Most employers will agree because they will have time to look at filling the later shift. 

  2. Working conditions - as a condition of possibly working extra, in addition to requesting for incentives –ask your employer for particular work conditions.  If you’re going to go through the hassle of working extra, the least the employer can do is to not float you or to not assign you extra assignments like being charge nurse or precepting.  

Alice Benjamin
Alice Benjamin
Nurse.org Contributor

Alice Benjamin, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, FNP-C, CCRN, CEN, CV-BC, also known as Nurse Alice, is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with over 23 years of nursing experience specializing in cardiology, critical care and emergency medicine. She is the host of the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast; an NBC Los Angeles Medical Correspondent and CEO of Nurse Approved. You can follow her at asknursealice.com, on Twitter and Facebook at @AskNurseAlice, and on Instagram at @asknursealice

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