island shift

Don’t Assign Me an Island Shift!

Dear Nurse Scheduler,

Please, for all that is good in the world, do not assign me an Island Shift. I realize that your job is an imperfect art, but the dreaded Island Shift should be avoided at all costs.

“Island Shifts” are isolated shifts within a work week. As you well know, nurses work a variety of schedules (such as 8 or 12-hour shifts) on any given day of the week. When we work a 12-hour shift, there isn’t much room to do anything else that day. Our day consists of eating, working, and sleeping. So if one of those 12-hour shifts is plopped right in the middle of 3 days off, it limits what we can do with our time off. Working an Island Shift with 8-hour shifts is even worse! Nurses who work 8 hours at a time are subject to five-day work weeks with only two days off, meaning the Island Shift will shred our social life.

Unique schedules are one of the many perks of nursing, so maintaining control of that schedule is super important. Many hospitals offer self-scheduling options, but even those aren’t full proof. For one, the software they use is usually confusing and leads to a lot of mistakes. The other reason is that scheduling is massively complicated and labor intensive. I’m usually afraid to ask our scheduler for anything because they always seem so stressed! Their emails to me lack proper punctuation and are suspiciously short like they don’t have time to add a period because they’re too inundated with similar requests. I don’t envy the position, but I dislike the Island Shift even more.

One day off is not enough to recover… it limits our willingness and energy to pick up those extra hours you need so badly.

Nurses like getting the same patients back when we come to work so that we can have some consistency instead of starting all over each shift. The Island Shift interrupts this flow and ensures that we will get a new assignment. It also decreases the chances that we will work an extra shift. One day off is not enough to recover, and when our shifts are randomly sprinkled across the week, it limits our energy and willingness to pick up those extra hours you need so badly.

So please do not schedule me an Island Shift. As you can see, it destroys my consistency at work and my schedule at home. Maybe we’ll start answering the phone when you call for extra shifts.

— Every Nurse