December 16, 2021

5 Things To Think About During The Holidays if You're Working as a Nurse

5 Things To Think About During The Holidays if You're Working as a Nurse

So often some of the most coveted words we hear nurses speak when they take a new job away from the standard 12-hour shifts are “no weekends and no holidays.” In fact, no holidays are one of the driving forces nurses might leave the bedside for clinic or office jobs. 

Unfortunately, choosing a career in nursing almost guarantees missing out on certain events including holidays due to the unconventional schedules. 

During parts of the year it might mean missing out on the first T-Ball game of the season, while at others it may be sending your spouse solo to Parent-Teacher conferences due to the Thursday work grind. But almost without question, nurses that work at the bedside will have to work some part of the winter and summer holidays.

Although there are often the few unicorns in the department that prefer to work the holidays due to a lack of family or because of the added pay incentive, the large majority of people would much rather have their work schedules mimic their family’s days off. Some departments spend weeks fine-tuning the most perfect blend of pot luck assortments to fill their stomachs in an effort to curb the void of missing sitting around a table with their own family. Other departments have spent their precious few minutes of downtime creating Christmas and holiday décor out of the most unconventional materials. Some hospitals offer employees a free holiday meal in hopes of easing the burden of having to work and miss time with family. 

And yet others seem to ignore it all completely and act as if the hospital maintains running and functioning the same year-round. These hospitals tend to forget that despite the hustle and bustle of the hospital, especially now during the ongoing pandemic, that the staff is silently suffering without their friends and families. 

5 Reflections on Past Holiday Shifts

But, the holiday magic that floats around Hallmark movies like the feather from Forest Gump doesn’t forget the staff that shows up to work all of these special days. There is a different energy in the hospitals on national holidays. All non-essential employees are still snuggled up in their beds, while the faithful and true continue to clomp the hallways in our mystery-stained Dansko’s. The hallways feel empty as management and administration do not show up to work, so it can often feel like mom and dad have left for vacation and it’s time to pull out all of the party tricks. But also management enjoying the holidays at home with loved ones does leave a slightly bitter taste. 

By the time the rest of the team shows up for huddle, it is almost as if everyone has accepted their fortunes and made peace with having to come into work on the holiday. 

  1. These shifts lead to some of the most memorable and cherished times with coworkers. The secretary is shoving dollar store hats on the most reserved nurses and the charge nurse announces that our family picnic will commence in four hours. The normally dull unit is now interrupted with a Spotify Christmas station. 
  2. Patient interactions can also be much more meaningful during this season as well. To some degree, the holidays bring an added level of stress that can often go unmatched, especially as families are dealing with pain, trauma, and financial burdens. However, grace and kindness also seem to abound with generous fluency. It is almost as if visiting family in the hospitals during Christmas time feels more like an event, and can often be an excuse for family members to simply relocate their traditional gatherings.
  3. Special moments between patients and families. Pre-Covid, it wasn’t extremely uncommon to walk into a room and see a family huddled next to Grandma as they brought her leftovers and finished opening gifts together. In fact, those moments are the ones that bring a smile to even the most cold-blooded nurses.
  4. A mild and unique bond occurs between a patient, visitor, and nurse. When they realize that neither one of them are where they would like to be. But, since they both find themselves in the same room, they might as well make it an experience worth remembering. Or at least one that doesn’t bring sadness and loneliness into the picture. Even if they recognize one another’s sadness, the magic of the holidays has a way of curating a more vulnerable space between them to fully express themselves. 
  5. This time of year leads to many easy conversation starters with patients, particularly the young and the old. Listening to older generations talk about their memories surrounding holidays and traditions can be quite capturing.

These shifts can be hard. Many nurses have small children that do not understand why mommy has to work on Christmas, or why dad had to go sleep and miss eating turkey with them in order to work that night. Although many nurses get more days off a week than other professions, the slow grind prevents us from taking many prolonged stretches of vacation off, particularly around the holidays. In fact, most hospitals don’t even allow for PTO directly around the holidays. 

Hospitals also see a natural rise in patients due to increased travel and time spent in large gatherings. Now more than ever - hospitals continue to see a rise in admissions due to Covid and other winter illnesses. Even though most nurses would much rather be spending the days with their family and friends carrying out old traditions and forging the path for new ones, the holiday magic, and hospital mandates, pull us back to work with hope and expectation that the shifts will be full of laughter, memories, and cherished times.

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