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November 25, 2019 | 5 min read
4 Ways Nurses Can Ask For Flexible Work Schedules


As new innovations and technologies continue to enter the workforce, professionals in many industries are noticing that “traditional” work schedules are disappearing. As a result, more professionals are asking for greater flexibility in the workplace—a trend that nurses are starting to catch onto. While nursing is traditionally thought of as job with a pretty set schedule, flexible work schedules are out there. It’s just about learning how to find and ask for them.

“The vast majority of nurses have never worked a strict ‘9 to 5’ work schedule, so flexibility for them can look a lot different than it does for professionals in more corporate fields,” says Alex MacDougall, a Staffing Manager with ES Healthcare, a division of The Execu|Search Group. ”This is especially true for clinical roles where nurses’ main responsibilities might involve working with patients. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for flexibility. Whether that means swapping a shift or two or working on different days, there are scenarios where it makes sense to ask for a more flexible work schedule.”

So, how do you go about navigating this conversation about flexible work schedules with your employer? Here are four steps to take:

Know what you’re looking for and why

Before asking your supervisor about options for flexible work schedules, know what kind of flexibility you’re looking for first and why. “If you are asking for a different or more flexible schedule, you first need to be able to explain why,” advises Alex. “To do this, be transparent about your work preferences and how making a change can help you better manage your career and personal needs. For example, asking to switch from the day to night shift in order to make time for your MSN is a very valid flexible scheduling request.” Regardless of the reasoning, you will need to ensure your manager that you’ll still be able to meet the requirements of the role when starting a new schedule.

Talk to your peers

If you’re struggling to come up with a plan regarding a flexible work schedule, it doesn’t hurt to ask your colleagues for their thoughts! Not only will they be able to provide guidance if they’ve been in your shoes before, they could also chime in in an effort to build your case. “So much of nursing comes down to whether or not there will be coverage for your patients in your absence,” explains Alex. “If you tell a supervisor that someone on your team would be willing to trade shifts with you, for example, it could help you land the approval you are requesting!”

Prepare to compromise

Once you have your plan, it’s time for you to go to your supervisor and discuss your options. While you may have your heart set on a specific schedule, you should also be open to your employer’s concerns and their opinion on the best scheduling option. “If your employer raises concerns or offers their objectivity, it’s important for you to be assertive, but understanding,” explains Alex. “For example, if you need to have specific days off, volunteer to work longer shifts during the days you can be there. If you’re willing to compromise in certain areas, your employer will be more likely to meet you halfway.”

Don’t worry if it takes some time to get the schedule you want

Since flexible work schedules are only just becoming more widely accepted, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t granted your request right away. “Before being given approval for more flexible work options, it’s important for nurses to have some built-in trust between themselves and their employer,” says Alex. “If that isn’t completely there, your supervisor may say they’ll want you to do a trial period first. This is your chance to prove that a more flexible schedule is a win / win for both you and your employer.”

Temporary and per diem nurse roles are another great way for you to find flexibility in your career. These types of opportunities give you room to negotiate for the best options available to you. If you’re interested in either of these types of opportunities, check out our website!

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