6 Tips For Nurses Working Through The Holidays

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    The holiday season means different things for different people, and if you're a nurse there is a good chance you could find yourself working a less-than-ideal shift during the holidays. Here's how to keep your spirits bright in those situations.

    6 Tips For Nurses Working Through The Holidays

    For most people, the holiday season is a special time of year, a time for shopping and decorating, attending parties, traveling to visit family, and doing all things celebratory. But for nurses, and for many medical professionals of all other specialties, the holidays are much like any other time of the year: unfortunately patients don’t magically get well just because it’s New Year’s Eve; emergencies don’t halt to a stop for Christmas. Working in healthcare is a 24/7 commitment to your patients, and only the most dedicated of employees can do it.

    So for all of the nurses who’ll find yourselves working while others play this holiday season, here are six tips to help make your own holidays a little brighter, a little less stressful, and hopefully much more fun.
    Plan your holiday schedule well in advance:
    If you know you’ll have to work specific days of the year, notify your family as soon as possible and make plans that will work around your schedule. For instance, if you work Christmas day, try planning your celebration for Christmas Eve. And remember, not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Communicate with coworkers early on and you might be able to find someone who’ll trade shifts with you.

    Bring the holidays to work:
    Just because you can’t be home for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to forget them altogether. Get permission to decorate your work area, and team up with your coworkers to literally “deck the halls” of your hospital, doctor’s office or other medical facility. Something as simple as some twinkle lights, an electric menorah (avoid fire hazards), a couple wreaths, or maybe even a little stocking for each employee, can go a long way. Have each person bring in just one decoration they would’ve used at home, and see what kind of holiday cheer you can create from it all.

    Hold an employee potluck:
    The holidays aren’t complete without food. And the best part about this food gathering is that it doesn’t have to take up much of the free time you do have outside of work. Hold your potluck in the break area all day long, so everyone can enjoy it at their convenience during breaks. Even though everyone may not be able to share in this together at the same time, it’s a wonderful way to come together as a community, what some might even call their “work family”.

    Be mindful and considerate of patients:
    Remember that you’re not the only one away from home for the holidays. But while you do eventually get to leave work and return to your family and friends, many patients are stuck in a hospital bed the entire season, some without any loved ones to visit them at all. You don’t need to go so far as to buy every patient a gift, but even small attempts to share the holidays with your patients --such as sharing your favorite holiday memories-- can lift both yours and their spirits.

    Know your limits:
    Work aside, the holidays can be stressful enough. Don’t push yourself to make everything perfect. Ask your family members if they can help prepare Christmas dinner. Simplify your shopping by doing it all online. Remind yourself that your friends will understand if you can’t make it to every Christmas party. You may not be able to prepare extravagant festivities, but you won’t be burned out either.

    Be proud of yourself:
    You care for others when no one else does. You work incredibly hard while most people relax at home. You dedicate your time to one of the most honorable professions of serving people in need. At the end of the day, never forget to take pride in your work as a nurse.
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    Ariel is a healthcare writer who loves working with medical professionals of all specialties. She currently works at Medelita Scrubs & Lab Coats, where she tries to provide valuable insights and advice for people in the medical field.

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    4 Comments

  3. by   HouTx
    Good points, but somewhat "martyr-ish". As a nurse, I have never been depressed about working on holidays. On the contrary - they are usually a very unique opportunity to share the day with a variety of interesting people. Patients' families bring all sorts of things, everyone's in a good mood - even physicians (!) and the organization usually caters a meal for holiday staff. It's actually a very positive experience.

    I've been lucky enough to work with very diverse colleagues, so there was never any shortage of staff who are willing to work a particular holiday that they did not celebrate - even our wonderful volunteers stepped up to arrange full coverage. On another note - I admit to have also been shameless... using this as an excuse to avoid some (family) holiday gatherings that are more of a chore than a joy. It's a win-win.
  4. by   sevensonnets
    I agree with HouTex that your article does seem 'martyr-ish.' Having been a nurse for nearly 4 decades now, I have worked many many Christmas holidays. Those of us who have been nurses for many years realize that's what we signed up for when we became nurses and we have already developed ways to cope with being away from our families on Christmas. However, Christmas in the hospital tends to be more horrendous than anything else. Some units close entirely, and we are operating with a bare bones staff. Patients who can go home do go, but some families who want to go out of town use the hospital for respite care for grandma, nursing homes ship out their difficult patients, and lonely people who have no family like to come in just to be near someone. Potlucks are out of the question because sometimes we don't even have time to eat. I have learned to treat Christmas as just another day. That's my coping strategy.
  5. by   Ruby Vee
    I was wondering what someone who works for a scrubs and lab coats company "trying to provide valuable insights and advice to people in the medical fields" knows about working Christmas Day in an acute care facility. Have you actually WORKED Christmas, OP? How many Christmases?

    Planning your schedule far in advance is good advice. As is participating in the Christmas potluck at work. Most years, we've all had time to partake of the potluck, although there have been years when we were just too busy. But "be mindful and considerate of patients?" Seriously? Yes, I know it's awful to be a patient at Christmastime -- I've been a patient from Christmas Eve through Epiphany. But I doubt that any real nurses need to be told to be mindful of the patients. We get that. And the "be proud of yourself" advice is awfully "Nancy Nursey", especially from one who is not a nurse.

    "Martyr-ish" is a good word to describe the tone, but perhaps "Nicey nicey" works as well. It just isn't authentic, especially coming from someone who is not a nurse and does not regularly expect to work Christmas.
  6. by   TruvyNurse
    I've actually not minded working the holidays. Good pay and potlucks...I'm in!

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