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Nursing over the holidays

iStockphoto | Photos.com | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | Photos.com | ThinkStock + Scrubs

Most nurses would probably tell you that working as a nurse during the holidays, quite frankly, stinks. Work takes you away from family during the most family-oriented time of the year. Most nurses don’t get to spend their holidays (in the traditional sense) with their families. The majority of nurses will spend the actual day of the holiday at work, while their families are enjoying the holiday festivities.

To make things worse, most of our nursing coworkers begin the oh-so-pleasant and traditional bargaining to see who will cover what shift when. We make crazy deals to work a funky four- or six-hour shift so that some of us can eat dinner with our families. Or work a ridiculously long stretch of shifts in order to have Christmas morning off to spend with the children. In the end, someone is always shortchanged.

Yep. Most nurses would agree that working as a nurse during the holidays is not ideal.

But I’m not like most nurses (or nurse practitioners). My holidays, while they are just as important to me and my family, are not as “day”-dependent or time-sensitive. I also don’t have a very large family, immediate or extended. I live a fairly close distance to my wonderful family. And ultimately, I married a nurse. All of which afford me many luxuries and flexibilities during the holidays.

I most often volunteer for Christmas if the shift needs to be filled. I’ll also work New Year’s Eve and/or New Year’s Day if needed. Heck, I’m willing to help out wherever the need arises.

The great thing about all the aforementioned perks of my family is that we can prearrange our holidays to meet the needs of my wife’s and my work schedules. If we need to, we celebrate the recognized holiday before or after the actual holiday. We’ve been known to celebrate our holiday a week in advance or a week late. My family is very understanding, very flexible and very willing to make accommodations.

And when I speak of my family, I speak of both sides of my marriage. My family as well as my wonderful in-laws are both so giving and so selfless that in most cases, they are the ones who make the suggestions on how we can best meet the needs of the family. This could mean two separate days of celebrations at two different locations, but everyone is always willing to bend.

Over the years, my family has come to realize that the time spent visiting and simply being present with one another greatly outweighs any date on a calendar. And thanks to all the previously mentioned perks, there isn’t a holiday that goes by that we don’t get to celebrate in our own traditional way.

So, working on the holidays doesn’t really stink for me. I’m willing to admit that every so often things pop up that make some holidays less than ideal, but we’ve become accustomed to the change and we always roll with the punches.

I try to remember each holiday that no matter how bad the schedule is, or how bad the shift, I’m still not the patient sitting in the bed. I’m not the one who is sick. I’m not that patient who is celebrating the holiday alone in a hospital room.

It’s my hope that when you pull the short straw and have to work the holiday, you make the most of it for you and your patients.

Happy holidays, everyone.

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2 Responses to Nursing over the holidays

  1. Sean this is an excellent perspective on working over the holidays. Thank you for sharing.

    I think many nurses do have families that adapt, but sometimes you still have to miss special events and I know first hand how hard that is.

  2. fyrefli RN

    I work in LTC and I don’t mind the holidays at all. I get to help make the day special for my residents. Love seeing the smiles on their faces. Also, double pay!

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