How Much PTO Do Nurses Get?

As a nurse, your job can be incredibly demanding, both physically and emotionally. It’s no surprise that you might need a break from time to time to recharge and take care of your own well-being. That’s where PTO, or paid time off, comes in. But how much PTO do nurses actually get? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at PTO for nurses, including federal and state regulations, employer policies, and factors that can impact the amount of PTO you receive.

Overview of PTO for Nurses

First, let’s define what we mean by PTO. Paid time off refers to the time you can take off from work and still receive your regular pay. PTO typically includes vacation time, personal days, and sick leave. Depending on the employer, PTO may also include holidays or other designated days off.

Nurses typically accrue PTO over time, usually based on the number of hours worked. The exact amount of PTO you receive will depend on your employer and your employment status (full-time vs. part-time, for example). Some employers may offer a set amount of PTO at the beginning of the year, while others may allow you to accrue PTO throughout the year.

There are also some limitations to PTO. For example, employers may require you to use PTO for certain types of absences, such as a planned medical procedure or maternity leave. In addition, some employers may have caps on the amount of PTO you can accrue or may require you to use it by a certain date.

Federal Regulations Regarding PTO for Nurses

As a nurse, you may be protected by federal laws that regulate PTO. One of the most important laws is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons, such as the birth of a child or a serious medical condition. While FMLA leave is unpaid, it does protect your job and benefits while you’re away.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is another federal law that can impact PTO for nurses. The FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees (those who are eligible for overtime) for all hours worked, including overtime. However, the FLSA does not require employers to provide PTO. Instead, PTO policies are typically governed by state laws or employer policies.

State Regulations Regarding PTO for Nurses

State laws can also impact the amount of PTO you receive as a nurse. Some states have their own laws governing PTO, while others may follow federal regulations. For example, California has its own paid sick leave law that requires employers to provide at least three days of paid sick leave per year. Other states may not have any laws specifically regulating PTO, leaving it up to individual employers to set their own policies.

It’s important to check the PTO laws in your state to ensure that your employer is complying with them. If you feel that your employer is not following state or federal laws regarding PTO, you may want to contact a labor attorney or your state labor department for guidance.

Employer Policies Regarding PTO for Nurses

In addition to federal and state laws, your employer’s policies will also impact the amount of PTO you receive. Some employers may be more generous with PTO than others, depending on factors such as the size of the organization, the industry, and the location.

For example, hospitals may offer more PTO than other healthcare settings due to the demanding nature of the job. Employers may also offer additional PTO for certain positions or to employees with longer tenure. In addition, some employers may allow you to roll over unused PTO from one year to the next, while others may require you to use it by the end of the year.

It’s important to review your employer’s PTO policies carefully to ensure that you understand how much PTO you’re entitled to, how it accrues, and any limitations on its use. If you have questions about your employer’s policies, don’t hesitate to speak with your supervisor or human resources representative.

Factors Affecting PTO for Nurses

There are several factors that can impact the amount of PTO you receive as a nurse. Here are a few to consider:

Nursing Shortage: In recent years, there has been a shortage of nurses in many parts of the country. This can impact PTO in a couple of ways. First, employers may be less likely to offer generous PTO policies if they’re struggling to fill open positions. Second, if there are fewer nurses on staff, those who are working may have a harder time taking time off without impacting patient care.

Shift Schedules: As a nurse, your schedule may be irregular, with shifts that include nights, weekends, and holidays. This can impact the amount of PTO you receive if your employer only allows you to accrue PTO during regular business hours. For example, if you work four 12-hour shifts per week, you may only be able to accrue PTO for 48 hours of work, even though you’re actually working more hours than that.

Union Contracts: If you’re part of a union, your PTO may be governed by a collective bargaining agreement. These agreements typically include provisions for PTO accrual and use, as well as other benefits such as paid holidays and sick leave. It’s important to review your union contract to understand your PTO entitlements.


In conclusion, the amount of PTO that nurses receive can vary depending on federal and state regulations, employer policies, and other factors. It’s important to understand your employer’s PTO policies and to ensure that they comply with any applicable laws or regulations. If you feel that your PTO entitlements are not being met, don’t hesitate to speak with your supervisor or human resources representative. Remember, taking time off to care for your own health and well-being is essential for being able to provide the best care to your patients.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act. Retrieved from
  3. American Nurses Association. (n.d.). Workplace Advocacy. Retrieved from
  4. Society for Human Resource Management. (2020). 2020 Employee Benefits Survey: Paid Time Off. Retrieved from

Marlene J. Shockley

My name is Marlene J. Shockley, and I am a Registered Nurse (RN). I have always been interested in helping people and Nursing seemed like the perfect career for me. After completing my Nursing Degree, I worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and home health care. I have also had the opportunity to work as a Travelling Nurse, which has allowed me to see different parts of the country and meet new people. No matter where I am working, I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families and helping them through whatever medical challenges they may be facing.