7 tips for making the most of your Thanksgiving dinner on the job


iStock | Lilyana Vynogradova
iStock | Lilyana Vynogradova

I generally work every holiday my bosses will let me. Without family nearby or kids to entertain, I can take up the slack for those coworkers who have such things, and get repaid later in the year when I want to take two weeks off at some random time.

As such, I’ve become something of an expert on workplace holiday dinners. I’ve worked on units where they had their own steam trays, everybody brought their own special dish and lunch was a sit-down affair. I’ve also worked at hospitals where a dry turkey sandwich was the best we were gonna do for the day. So, some tips:

  1. Bring a stick of butter to work with you. If you have to eat institutional hospital food on a holiday, you can at least add real butter to the instant potatoes and the weird little rolls they hand out.
  2. If your unit has the sort of cohesion that’ll support a potluck, assign foods a couple of weeks before. Otherwise, you’ll end up with 14 green bean casseroles and no mashed potatoes.
  3. In the same vein, take up a donation for a smoked turkey. No, really. It can be served cold and won’t spoil if it sits out (pretty likely, given our profession).
  4. Forget the turkey entirely. Does anybody really like turkey? Concentrate on side dishes instead for a potluck.
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Nothing says “American melting pot” like curried sweet potatoes, groundnut stew, dolmas and pancit for Thanksgiving.
  6. If all you’ll get is a turkey sandwich delivered by somebody from food service, take two. You can smush all the fillings from one into the other and have a good turkey sandwich.
  7. If all else fails, brown-bag it with your favorite foods. That could be a meatball sandwich with a side of tater tots or an elaborate salad with homemade croutons. Loads better than something from the hospital cafeteria, right?

Any way you look at it, you’re still luckier to be working on a holiday than to be in a hospital bed on a holiday!

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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