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Work/Life Balance: Which Shift Schedule is Best? 


By Debbie Bunch 

March 11, 2024 

There are so many factors that must be considered in any job search. You want to know about the culture and reputation of the hospital, you need to find out which respiratory services the department offers and whether they work under protocols, and of course you want to know what your compensation will be and what the chances are for advancement.  

But let’s face it — any job you take is going to have to fit in with your life too, so the shift schedule you’ll be asked to work is top of mind as well. 

What do your colleagues in respiratory care think about the various shift schedules out there today? We asked members of the AARC Specialty Sections to tell us. 

A set matrix 

Gary Kuhn, RRT, RRT-ACCS, currently works under a set matrix that has him taking shifts on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday during Week 1 and Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday during Week 2.  

He’s been following this schedule for three years now and really enjoys it. “I feel it makes it easier to schedule appointments and social plans in advance,” said Kuhn. ”Having every Friday off is nice because it is my day at the Elks Club with my buddies. Also, I take care of an elderly parent, so only working two days in a row makes it easier on the both of us.”  

Angel Alvarez, RRT, works four, ten-hour shifts a week, and over a two-week period those shifts rotate between Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday — giving him a four-day weekend every other week.  

“I enjoy my current schedule tremendously,” he said. “On the weeks where I have my four-day weekend I can start projects and, more often than not, I can finish them.” That four-day weekend every other week also makes it easier to take short, three-day trips out of town with family and/or friends, and still have a day left over to run errands.  

“When there isn’t much going on, it is truly a very relaxing weekend in which I can ‘recharge my batteries,’ as they say,” he said. If he could, he’d cut back to three ten-hour or maybe even eight-hour shifts in the same general format, but the schedule he has now works for him.  

Different strokes for different folks 

The PFT lab that Julia Griffin, CRT, CPFT, works in is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and start times for the shifts are staggered, with some people coming in at 7, others at 7:30, and still others at 8.  

Griffin works eight-hour days, Monday through Friday, and comes in at 7:30. These more conventional working hours have always worked great for her because her husband worked the same schedule before he retired. 

“I like the shift I work and have had the opportunity to change if I wanted,” she said.  

For the past six months, Jeffrey Powell, CPSGT, has been working three, 12-hour shifts per week at a sleep lab, and he had the same schedule for three years at his previous job as a tele tech before that. He finds it extremely helpful in that he is currently going to school to complete his RT degree so he can earn the RRT credential. 

“I am in school two days a week . . . and on clinicals another two days,” he said. “If it was a different schedule, I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Even if he could pick his ideal schedule, he’d opt for the 12-hour shifts. “I like to have four days ostensibly to myself,” said Powell.  

Cindy Escobar, RRT, RRT-NPS, says she’s worked three, 12-hour shifts a week throughout her eight-year career in RT. While she sees an upside and a downside to the schedule — for example, she can’t plan anything else on the days she works, but she does get four whole days off a week — she would not trade it. 

“I still prefer my 12-hour, three-day work week over a nine-to-five job,” said Escobar. The only thing better would be if she could cut back to two, 12-hour shifts a week. “I could get more done and volunteer more,” she said. 

Work/life balance 

As a transport therapist, Debbie Pirrello, RRT, RRT-NPS, works a 12-hour NOC shift in house and then a 24-hour on call transport shift each week. She’s been doing it for seven years now and has mixed feelings about it. 

“Since I live alone, my schedule has little impact on others, however, it can make having a social life challenging because if a transport shift runs over, I may miss events,” she said. She would also find it helpful to have more than just one day off in between her two different shifts.  

Camille King, RRT, RPFT, AE-C, works ten-hour shifts four days a week in what she calls a “very busy PFT lab.” She’s had this schedule since 2020, when her facility made a move to the ten-hour shift because other hospitals in the area were offering it.  

King says it’s greatly improved her work/life balance and made her job easier in some respects as well. “Personally, I find that the rhythm of the day feels better,” she said. “These are extremely busy labs, and even though more patients are seen during the longer shift, it feels less rushed. It’s as if there is more time to get everything done and the schedule isn’t as compressed.” 

She also finds she takes fewer unplanned days off because the four-day work week gives her a chance to coordinate her personal business on her days off. “There has been no downside,” said King.  

One size does not fit all 

As these comments from members of the AARC Specialty Sections show, there really is no “one size fits all” shift for respiratory therapists. But the good news is, there are a variety of shift options available at facilities that hire RTs, so finding one that meets your needs is a definite possibility. 

Learn more about the AARC Specialty Sections and see whether one or more of these groups would add value to your AARC membership. Each section sponsors a dedicated discussion list on AARConnect where members can share information and ask questions.  


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