When you have to work on Thanksgiving: A series of perfectly appropriate reactions


Thanksgiving is a special time full of holiday cheer, family gatherings, food on food on food and…intense anxiety.
At least in the days or weeks leading up to the annual feast. At least if you’re a nurse.

That’s because unlike so many other professions in the U.S., nurses aren’t exactly promised the day off. Will you be working? Will you be eating inordinate amounts of Thanksgiving food? There’s simply no telling—until there is. And even then, should you have dodged the Thanksgiving-shift bullet, there’s always a very real chance you’ll receive that dreaded “So, we’re going to be short…” morning-of call.

Needless to say, waiting on scheduling word can be far from pleasant, with charge nurses like:

And anxious nurses like:

But even worse than the waiting? Actually being assigned a shift on Thanksgiving. Of course, there are many phases of emotion a nurse will encounter on the path to acceptance after experiencing just that.

Here’s a rundown of what that transition might look like (in case you need to prepare yourself).


Stage 1: Disbelief

After looking forward to the holiday season since, well, the last holiday season, it’s difficult to accept that you will not, in fact, have the day off.

For a moment or two, you may even think that this so-called “final schedule” is a sick joke.

It’s not. And in time, it will start to sink in….


Stage 2: Complete and utter sorrow

In time, you’ll emerge from your denial. And your whole world will start to look a lot like this:

At which point, it becomes necessary to begin informing everybody (family, friends, strangers on Instagram and Twitter…) that you will not be partaking in this year’s Thanksgiving festivities. Well, not from home, anyway.


Stage 3: Minor outrage 

Having made your rounds, you start to think about everything you’ll be missing. Prepping the Thanksgiving turkey, arguing with siblings, spending about 89 percent of the day in your pajamas….

That’s when you start to get angry—at work, at your luck and sort of just the world.

Meanwhile, all around you, your fellow nurses who are NOT working on Thanksgiving are discussing their plans, and you’re just sitting in the break room like:


Stage 4: Major outrage

As Thanksgiving approaches, you start to kind of go off the deep end.

Hoarding all the slices of pumpkin pie that are available in the cafeteria…pouring gravy into your coffee…

Snapping whenever somebody asks what your plans are for Thanksgiving.


Stage 5: The revelation

Finally, your inner nurse calls to you…

And you have a revelation.

Yes—Thanksgiving is lovely, and your aunt’s stuffing is divine. HOWEVER, there’s feeling really, really full, and then there’s feeling fulfilled.

And this year, you’re going to enjoy a heavy helping of the latter. Because on a day intended for giving thanks, you’re going to have a whole lot of people, people you may otherwise never have encountered, who are grateful for you. 

Plus, no heartburn.

Finally, it probably doesn’t hurt that you’ve been promised all the leftovers, either.

Translation? Double-decker sandwiches for days.

We repeat: FOR. DAYS.

Scrubs Editor
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