The Rest RN Blog

Why I said “No” to overtime my first year at the hospital

If you are looking for permission to say ‘No’ and NOT feel guilty when asked to work overtime shifts, here it is.

You have my permission to say “No” to working extra as a nurse. Especially in your first year.

And if anyone asks you where you got the idea, just tell them you read it on the internet.  I mean, isn’t that pretty much where we get ALL of our facts now a days?

But in all seriousness, it is okay and can actually be good for you to say ‘No” to overtime. Here are some thoughts from my own humble experience.

The No Overtime Commitment

Going into my first year as a registered nurse at a hospital, I decided not to work any extra shifts outside of my contracted days for 12 months.  At my place of work, we do not have mandatory overtime shifts nor on-call shifts.  For this I am grateful.  Making the decision to only do my contracted 36 hours per week was first inspired by my desire to spend more time with my family.  I was FINALLY done with the insanity of nursing school and homework. But upon reflection, I realized I benefited much more from my No Overtime commitment than I originally expected. 

  1. It made saying “no” to the almost daily calls from the staffing office much easier. I was in my first 12 months, so I knew I could just decline based on principle.
  2. It gave me much needed time to reflect on my work days, assess what I had learned and decide on ways to improve my practice.  My brain was always reviewing my work days, analyzing and learning through reflection.  I think more days of work per week may have just fried my brain!
  3. I was able to plan intentional time with my family because my schedule was set in advance.  No unexpected days of work.
  4. I needed the rest.  I was EXHAUSTED not just physically but also emotionally.  Nursing takes such a huge commitment of our intellect, logic and our hearts.

To all you “Newbie Nurses”

The enticement to quickly build-up a savings account can be very hard to turn down. A new graduate nurse goes from living a student life, to all of a sudden getting paid a decent wage AND having the chance to make time and a half on extra hours. It’s wonderful to get finally compensation for your hard work.

You can gain lots of experience from overtime.  You can gain lots of money.  But you can also gain lots of stress and early burnout.  And you can lose precious time family, friends and important time to process.

You may only be out of the house for 3 days a week, but you are working FULL TIME.  Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise. The physical toll on your body is significant (Can you say 12,000 steps in work day? Lots of boosting immobile patients in bed?) You need to make sure you give yourself time to relax and recharge.

The quality of our care

As nurses, we deal with death and life, joy and sorrow.  We walk along those who are healing and those whose bodies are failing them. Empathy and compassion are gifts that we bring to our patients.  But we must protect that natural sensitivity by taking time away from work.  Too much exposure to difficult emotions can lead us on the path toward becoming desensitized and jaded.  

Interestingly, a 2013 study found that the more overtime nurses worked, the less they collaborated with fellow nurses and physicians.  Maybe we just get tired of all the communicating our job requires after a few extra hours of work, am I right?

Another study concluded that longer the shifts and more overtime worked by nurses correlated with higher burnout and patient dissatisfaction. This study addresses that the distinction between voluntary and mandatory overtime is often blurred for nurses.  Sometimes we can feel pressured into “voluntary” overtime. There are staffing shortages, ever increasing acuity of patients and personal financial stressors that further complicated this scenario.

Before you say “Yes”

It can be hard to say no when you understand that there is a need.  Nurses are helpers.  It’s what we do.  And if you have the stamina for a few overtime shifts, by all means jump in.  Help out and make some extra well-earned money!  But I challenge you to FIRST take an inventory of yourself and your loved ones before committing to an extra shift.  And if you are new, maybe consider a “no overtime commitment” like I did my first year.  Your future self will thank you!

In health and joy,



How big of a deal is nurse overtime? Even one extra hour is tied to significantly worse collaboration, study finds.

The Longer The Shifts For Hospital Nurses, The Higher The Levels Of Burnout And Patient Dissatisfaction



Karen Doiron

Transformational Health & Life Coach

I am here to fully empower you to reclaim your life from the impacts of stress.  There is hope that you can easily implement and maintain healthy habits that will create abundant energy. 

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