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How Much Time Do Nurses Get Off a Year: Things to Know

Updated: Feb 29

How much time off do nurses get?

Part-time, full-time, overtime, and all-nighters.

Nurses accrue a LOT of PTO — often faster than they can use it.

How does PTO work for nurses? How much time off do they get, and what happens to the surplus of unused days waiting to be paid out?

In this article, we dive into the details of how much PTO nurses get and uncover a creative way to unlock extra compensation using PTO.

Table of Contents

How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?

While some nurses work 8-hour shifts five days a week, as a general rule, most nurses work three 12-hour shifts weekly.

That’s not including overtime or picking up a shift for a coworker.

Legal Regulations Regarding PTO for Nurses

If you're thinking medical facilities are required to provide PTO to their nurses, think again.

There are no federal regulations stipulating PTO or sick leave minimums for nurses (or any other industry). There are also no federal regulations that force employers to grant time off to use PTO, even if you have it accrued.

Some states, however, do regulate employee sick leave, but this varies from state to state.

How Much PTO Do Nurses Get?

There is no easy answer to this question.

The amount of PTO for nurses varies greatly from facility to facility. Overall, however, we’ve found that nurses get anywhere from 17 to 26 days of PTO per year on average, depending on their length of employment.

Generally, hospitals tend to offer better PTO accrual rates than 9–5 clinics.

How much PTO nurses get also depends on how long they have worked for a facility.

Additionally, some employers lump vacation and sick leave together, whereas others keep them separate. The policies surrounding this often depend on state regulations.

In an Ideal World, Nurses Would Use All the PTO They Accrue

In the nursing profession, whenever possible, it is important to utilize your PTO regularly.

Using it in this way enables you to effectively create and sustain the critically important work/life balance, and also benefits you by:

  • Helping combat nurse burnout

  • Improving your overall physical health

  • Allowing you to sleep better sleep at night

  • Boosting your mental health

  • Giving you time with family and friends

  • Making fewer on-the-job medical errors; and

  • Increasing your job performance

But the problem is that many times nurses just allow their PTO to accrue and accrue — without ever taking any time off.

In Reality, Nurses Are Faced With Many Challenges When Trying To Use Their PTO

Below are some reasons why nurses don't take time off.

Often, Only One Person From a Team Is Allowed To Use PTO Days at a Time

In this case, if a nurse wants to take a longer vacation of several days or more, it has to be planned well in advance and often must be coordinated with the other members of the nursing team.

Some nurses report having the option of joining a PTO float pool. This means they’re not having to compete with as many nurses for vacation approvals, especially if the float pool is on the smaller side.

A few nurses in larger medical facilities also revealed that up to four team members per shift can be on vacation simultaneously.

Employers Can Deny PTO Requests

It’s also important to keep in mind that just because you ask to use some of your PTO days, it doesn't mean you're actually going to get to take the time off.

Numerous factors can lead employers to deny vacation and PTO requests. This is especially true concerning nurse staffing shortages due to:

  • The high percentage of older nurses nearing retirement age; and

  • High nurse turnover rates

Most of the time, however, the acceptance or denial of PTO requests depends on the medical facility.

If you’re fortunate enough to work at a hospital that places a high priority on work-life balance, you may have a much easier time getting the vacation days you request.

Vacations Are Expensive

Spring break in Hawaii.

A European cruise.

A ski trip in the Rockies.

When it comes to taking a vacation, the cost can be prohibitive. And even if you have a team and an employer that DO allow you to take a vacation — that doesn’t mean you can afford it.

The Result: More PTO Is Accrued Than Can Actually Be Used

You know how it works. The more shifts you take, the more PTO you accrue.

But when it comes down to it, the reality is that throughout their careers, most nurses simply accrue more PTO than they will ever be able to use.

For example, let's say you’ve spent five years working at a medical facility, but haven’t used any of your vacation days. Your PTO bank is most likely full to the rim with more days than you could possibly use.

And so they just sit there, going to waste.

Creative Ways for Nurses To Use Their PTO With Sorbet’s PTO Advance Solution

Imagine this scenario.

You’ve accrued 160+ hours of PTO, which comes out to more than four weeks — well above what most employers allow a nurse to take off at one time. Even if you could get the okay to take some time off, with that much accrued PTO, there's no way you'll be able to take off enough time to use it all.

So the question is, what happens to all that “unusable time?”

This is where Sorbet’s PTO Advance Solution comes to your rescue — solving the problem in the most ingenious way imaginable.

With Sorbet, your unused PTO is actually worth a lot of money.

Instead of letting that money go to waste or waiting until you leave your company to get the payout you deserve, we’ve come up with a solution.

Sorbet allows you to get an advance on your unused PTO — without having to compromise on your regular nursing salary. This way, you can make your PTO work for you, as you’re able to enjoy a little extra cash flow without having to dip into your next paycheck or resort to taking out a high-interest loan.

Our PTO advance is a great way to access hard-earned money you’ve already worked for and get the compensation you deserve without having to wait until you leave your facility — and you can use the money in whatever way you want!

Take That Vacation (And Pay for It With Unusable PTO)

One of the perks of being a nurse is the amount of PTO you accrue.

Often you have so much PTO that you can use some to take your actual vacation days while taking another portion as a cash advance that can be used to actually pay for the trip.

With Sorbet, you can have your dessert and eat it too.

Treat Yourself

No matter who you are, you likely have a long list of things you would like to do or buy for yourself (or someone you love), like:

  • Spending the day at a spa

  • Taking in a concert

  • Buying a new, designer handbag

  • Investing in a room makeover or remodel

  • Getting those much-needed vehicle repairs; or

  • Investing in a special celebration

But if you’re like most of us, you won’t (or can’t) afford to spend your paycheck on those things due to bills, groceries, and/or kids. You may even feel guilty spending money on yourself.

That's just part of the beauty of a PTO advance. You can pay for the things you need — or even so-called ‘ indulgences’ — without feeling the need to take on any of the guilt.

Cover the Unexpected

Life happens — often in the form of a medical bill, an unexpected car repair, or the discovery of a crawlspace full of termites.

Sometimes having the money to cover those unforeseen medical, car, or home expenses can be even more anxiety-relieving than taking a vacation.

What if you knew the money was available to take care of life’s inevitable surprises as they pop up?

With Sorbet, it is.

Nurses: Unused PTO Is Time (and Money) Wasted — Don’t Let It Just Sit There

PTO is the gift that keeps on giving. Since it keeps right on accruing, advancing a portion of your PTO now doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.

“But, I’m too busy,” you say. “I don’t have time to take a vacation right now.”

We get it. But that doesn't mean your PTO has to go to waste.

Are you in need of a little self-care? Or what about the braces for your kid, the new roof, or the car repairs that make you sick to your stomach every time you think about them?

You no longer have to worry when you have Sorbet. You can have the best of both worlds by advancing your PTO to get the cash you need to invest in whatever you choose.

Sorbet’s PTO advance gives you peace of mind by allowing you to access the funds you need (that are already yours to begin with) so you can take care of your most pressing needs.

Unlock Extra Compensation Without Cutting Into Your Paycheck With Sorbet

Your PTO is hard-earned money. And if it's just sitting there, it's hard-earned money that could be well spent.

You deserve to have access to your accrued PTO and make it work for you, whether you choose to invest it in your dream vacation, a girl’s day at the spa, a new transmission, or a shopping spree.

And it’s easy to do with Sorbet. You’ll simply:

  1. Use Sorbet’s free calculator to calculate the value of your unused PTO.

  2. Apply. There’s no risk when applying, and you can change your mind during the application process.

  3. Get paid. You’ll receive your funds straight to your bank account.

You’ll only pay a small payment each month — and then repay the full amount either at the end of the term or when you receive your PTO payout from your employer whenever you leave the company.

Improve your financial health with a Sorbet PTO advance and spend your hard-earned cash now rather than later.


We are thrilled that our product is helping nurses take hard-earned time off. Here is a testimony from a nurse that utilizes Sorbet’s PTO cash advance to take a memorable and well-deserved vacation.

“With staffing shortages still high, it is almost impossible for nurses to use all of their PTO during the year. When the chance to take some time off does come up, we need to jump at that opportunity and get the most we can out of it. Thanks to Sorbet, I was able to use some of my PTO to plan a vacation and cash out some of it so that I could cram as much fun into that time as possible. This money was used to build memories with my family which is invaluable because kids grow up quick. You don’t want to miss that time working doubles trying to save for a great vacation when there are tools available to help you live that dream now.' 

-Naomi Riley-Walker, Registered Nurse

Naomi Riley-Walker, Registered Nurse

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