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Holiday hierarchy

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The holidays for any health care worker is tough. As a nurse we don’t get the ‘traditional’ holiday, so we either have to celebrate our holidays on alternate days or beg for the time off.

This gets even more complicated when you have more than one nurse (or health care worker) in the family (or single household)

Then the equation gets even further complicated when you consider the children of the family (or household) and then making time for the spouse’s family members.

So we nurses always try our best to ‘plan ahead’. Making the appropriate phone calls, figuring out the plan of attack, what day will you actually see your family (all together), will it be before the actual holiday, or after, etc., etc.

So here’s my question:

How are the holiday work schedules decided at your job?

I’ve discovered there is more than one method out there, and I’m convinced that nobody has it right yet. When I was the ‘green’ nurse I used to get angry at the ‘seniority’ rule. The nurses who were there longer got first ‘dibs’. Now that I’m more the ‘seasoned’ nurse with some years under my belt I’m not nearly as angry at that thought since I’ve ‘put my time in’.

There are other methods of ‘signing up’. Some places will let you ‘choose’ your cluster of holidays. They will cluster Christmas and New Year’s Eve together, then cluster Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day together. The idea is to try and make it fair and evenly spread amongst the staff.

You have the single, engaged, married, with or without children, out of town families and strongly traditional types of employees that are always vying there way to what they think is ‘right’.

What do you think is the right way, fair way and decent way of spreading the ‘holiday cheer’?

Let’s be honest here folks, none of us ‘like’ working on the holiday. We nurses may love our job, but who wants to be working on the holiday??

So this is all about ‘you’ and your time with your family. How can we keep the ‘natives’ happy while making sure we satisfy our own needs? We want to be team players, but our ‘team’ is not where we like spending our holidays.

I’d love to hear your experiences. What do you think works well, and what do you think is the worst way to handle the holiday work schedules?

Here are answers from our Facebook nurses!

We have “A” and “B” holidays. They alternate each year. And if you have to work a holiday you want off you’re more than welcome to get it covered, if you can’t, then you have to work. Also, it makes planning trips easy because you already know which holidays you will be obligated to for the year.
-Mary Becker

Self-scheduling works great in my department! Full time must choose to work 2 summer holidays and 3 winter holidays. PRN (which I am) must choose 1 summer holiday and 2 winter holidays. Also, we recently voted to include Easter in the summer holidays and to include Halloween in the winter holidays. It makes it more fair for everyone who wants those days off and those who don’t care.
-Erin Bass

We have to work one of each. For example: Thanksgiving or the day before, Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s Eve or Day. Then the person that does staffing makes a budget list if you work that day your name goes in a hat and she draws the first 6 names for every shift and every day. Then, if there is budget, it goes one to six and you can decline if you want.
-Alisha Webb

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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11 Responses to Holiday hierarchy

  1. Steph

    I work at an assisted living facility as a CNA. I only work PRN because I’m in school to become an RN. I just started there in April, so I’ve gotten the “privilege” of working Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. From what I’ve heard, the full-time staff gets at least one holiday off every year and it alternates based on what the person worked the year before. A good incentive to work holidays that they have is that they give us double pay for any hours we work on the holiday (or the Friday before/Monday after if the holiday falls on the weekend). I was happy to work all the holidays for the extra money. The only issue I’ve had is that my boss didn’t put out the schedules until the last minute so no one knew when they were working and couldn’t schedule things. Also, my mom is an RN and her facility is out-patient dialysis that normally runs Monday through Saturday, but for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s they are closed and move the days around to be open on Sunday. So, this year, my mom had Christmas day off and I had Christmas eve off, but she was able to take a PTO day for Christmas eve and we got to spend time with the family.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Steph Thanks for sharing your experiences – and congrats / good luck with school!!

  3. Susan

    We have a holiday priority sign posted on the unit a month and a half priort to the holidays (Thanks giving, Xmas eve, Xmas day, and New Year’s eve). You sign a priority to each of the holidays in the preference order you would like off- #1, #2 etc. If you had Xmas day as your #1 holiday the year before- make plans to work it and make it #2 priority for this year. Generally you always get your #1 priority and sometimes your #2 priority as well. Senority does not come into play. Everyone shares the holiday load.(No dues to pay and resentments to build). We also have a drawing for standby (again #1, #2 etc) If the unit is slow people are called off on standby. They come in as the unit becomes busy (pay is already time & Half- so the unit wins too paying less people). The #1 on standby is the last to be called to come in if needed. Hope this helps- our unit is more cheery with this process.

  4. Sandy

    I am a staff nurse in a hospital setting. On the unit where I work, we rotate holidays. This means you work this year, you are off next year. The only problem is for those whose only family is out of town. You need an extra day off to get there. And to get back. That means PTO or you can’t go.
    I just know that if I work this year, I can plan to be off next year.

  5. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Susan – that system sounds great! Fairness, equality and of course budget friendly!

    @ Sandy That system is a common theme in many hospitals (worked it before as well). Can be tough sometimes.

    • fyrefli RN

      I volunteer to work all holidays. I figure, let the nurses with kids have them off. Plus, double pay for me and I get to spend the holidays with my residents. I just see my family on my next day off. It works out well for everyone.

  6. errn129

    I work in an WE where we do a 2 on 2 off pattern with every other week end off mostly for the holidays we just keep to the pattern and eventually you get the holidays off two to three years in a row. It pretty much works out if you work thanksgiving you’ll have Christmas off. On the years you have to work a certain holiday and you want it off. You have to find your own relief or you work it. Usually isn’t a problem finding someone who will trade with you. I work all the holidays I can cuz u get extra pay and I don’t have kids.

  7. errn129

    Sorry the “WE” IS suppose to be “ER”

  8. KitCat31

    We have a sign up sheet. You pick Thanksgiving or Black Friday (nice). Christmas eve or day. New Years eve or day. If too many people sign up for one and not the other it defaults to who worked what last year.

  9. bassador7

    I work for a float pool in a big hospital.We work 2-3 holidays a year, but no clusters.We are assigned to “A”, “B” or “C” holidays, so I know what I will work the next 3 years. It helps because we all can trade around in advance.

  10. Terri RN

    One place I worked there was a policy that all nursing staff would work either: Thanksgiving or the day after (think Black Friday sales); Christmas eve or Christmas; New Years eve or New Years day. The only exception was if there was enough staff and a vacation had been approved over ONE holiday (generally this had to be requested at least 6 months before). If there was a conflict (too many wanted Christmas off) then it was decided according to who had it last and finally seniority. Overall it worked really well since usually people’s preferences ranged about 50/50 for each of the holiday days.

    For the last several years I have been teaching in a nursing program. It means I actually get all holidays off — of course I took more than a 30% pay cut from what I made as a hospital RN. Its a good thing I love this job!