How do I deal with working holidays?

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Ah, yes. Three-day workweeks. So great to have time off during the week to run errands and spend time with the children…until the holidays roll around. Then nurses start believing that the grass is always greener and maybe that office job that closes for holidays doesn’t look so bad after all.

All shift-working nurses have been there. Spending Christmas morning with a work commute half as long as usual because nobody is on the road. Eating a frozen turkey dinner in the break room on Thanksgiving evening while your extended family passes the phone around the dinner table, giving you a chance to talk to everyone. Hoping that Y2K didn’t shut down the country because it would be really unfortunate to lose power to your ventilator-dependent patient for the remaining seven hours of the shift.

How can you best deal with working on holidays? The most important thing to remember, no matter which holiday, is to be thankful that you are not the one IN the hospital. You get to leave after your shift and proceed with your plans while your patient spends the rest of the holiday in a hospital bed.

Second, look at it as a pecking order, paying your dues, working your way up the ladder–especially for the newer nurses, because with more seniority comes fewer holidays spent at work. If you’re a newer nurse without kids, be an extraordinary coworker and offer to work on Christmas so the moms on the floor can be at home with their children. After all, some of you would rather have New Year’s off, anyway.

And finally, embrace it. Scheduled to work on October 31? Dress up in a costume that will make all of your patients laugh. Bring some homemade treats for all to share on Thanksgiving. Donate some hand-me-down baby clothes for the floor over Christmas. Make the best of it, and be thankful for your health.

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Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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3 Responses to How do I deal with working holidays?

  1. KrisA

    I had to work a few Thanksgivings within the past few years and at first I was really mad and a little sad about it. But after working my first one, I saw that Thanksgiving is just like any other day and patients (and their families) don’t get to take a holiday if their sick or in pain. The school I attended, Jacksonville University, has a great article that mentions some things about working on Thanksgiving that I had never really thought about. The article can be found here: :)

  2. suzyq

    I have worked many holidays in my 30+ years in the medical profession. The co-workers are usually very supportive to make it do-able by planning meals, snacks etc. Especially because Our Employer didnt seem to acknowledge that while they were enjoying the holiday, someone has to care for our patients and their families. Although we normally worked 12 hour shifts, sometimes during the holidays, the shifts were 8 hours. That did seem to help. But I do believe the appreciation of the patient and/or their families mean the most. suzyq

  3. zornowk

    I knew going into nursing that holidays were part of the deal. My family has always been very understanding. My Mother has our family holiday on the Sunday before, which I can usually get off. My husband and kids also realize this and we work around it (day before, night of, etc…) In our minds, Christmas and Thanksgiving are “seasons” not days on the calender. We celebrate, just on a different day.