Working Holidays? 5 Ways to Make It Work for You

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    Working the holidays? This article offers a little encouragement as you head into the season.

    Working Holidays? 5 Ways to Make It Work for You

    "The schedule is posted," my friend told me. Her tone indicated that she was not happy about it. When the holidays roll around, special events multiply as family, friends and co-workers gather. Admittedly, it is a difficult time to be at work, feeling that we might be missing out. We look around and see others with jobs that are less demanding during the end of the year rush and we find ourselves doing some wishful thinking or struggling with a serious case of job envy.

    How can we not just survive working the holidays but also thrive? What can we do to keep from becoming the complaining Grinch that steals the joy of the season from ourselves and others? How can we take the very best care of our patients even when it's not convenient for us personally? Here are some considerations:

    1. Attitude matters- Every day we have a choice about how we will proceed and how we will view the events of the day. We don't get to control the events themselves, but we do control our reactions to them. When it comes to working on a day when we would strongly prefer to be off, we get to decide how to view that and whether to start out with a positive or negative perspective. This does that mean we have to be that annoyingly cheerful person who sometimes seems a little out of touch with the reality around them, but being Debbie Downer never gains us friends or the admiration of others-even ourselves! Making a conscious decision not to complain can be helpful because it is a decision that can give us the boost we need to get through a tough working schedule.
    2. See the opportunities- While is it never fun to be the one working on a holiday, it can also be a time when new perspectives open up. It may be a time for you to step up in leadership, to showcase your ability to stay upbeat on a difficult day, and to build team morale. Many times, holidays come with extra pay, a perk that makes the pain of being on duty less acute. Being understanding of leadership and their responsibilities can be a help to the entire work place. As part of the team, we simply do not know everything. We cannot know why we have to work when so-and-so "got the last holiday off, too." Sometimes it happens that way and because of confidentiality issues, we are not part of all that is behind the scenes in the decision making process. Allowing others the benefit of the doubt can take us from a place of bondage to resentment and anger and move us toward a brighter, lighter space where we are free to do the good job we know that we can.
    3. Count the good stuff- Life is hard, and we all have problems, but it is almost always possible to find someone else who has troubles too, and often they are worse than our own. The fact is, if we are working, then we are not the patient! Being the one in the bed has to be harder than being in a caregiving position. Lee Iacocca once said, "The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being." Sometimes it is hard to look at the brighter side of things, but this is another area where we can improve with practice. Finding a way to count our blessings puts the brightness and energy back in our work and in our celebrations.
    4. Plan alternative celebrations- We have friends that always celebrate Thanksgiving on the day after the official holiday. They contend that it makes it easier for everyone to gather and that the designation of a particular date is not that important to them. When they told me about their custom, I was surprised but quickly saw the profound wisdom of it all. Being willing to get together on an alternate day shows a great deal of selflessness and highlights what many holidays are all about -celebrating what is the best in all of us. While missing out on some the customary events of the holidays is definitely hard, work commitments can lead to creative changes that turn out to be keepers and turn into welcome traditions.
    5. Professionalism shines when we put our patients first- It is during our times of greatest stress and disappointment that our professionalism as nurses has an chance to shine. It's never easy to put our best foot forward when we are not feeling it, but it is the hallmark of a true professional-being able to put our own wants and needs aside-at least during our shift-for the good of our patient. A professional nurse leaves the commentaries and complaints at home, caring for their patients to the very best of their ability, no matter what the day.

    What helps you to find joy and contentment even when you have to work on a holiday? What suggestions do you have for other nurses as they face these challenges?
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    About jeastridge

    Joy has been a nurse for 30+ years and is currently a Faith Community Nurse. In her leisure time she enjoys playing with her grandchildren, cooking for a crowd and walking her sweet dog.

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    13 Comments

  3. by   That Guy
    Holidays are fine, its the day after that suck in the ER. Ill gladly work a holiday as long as I dont work the next day.
  4. by   itsybitsy
    This does that mean we have to be that annoyingly cheerful person who sometimes seems a little out of touch with the reality around them
    Whenever someone is like this, I usually think they need to get off their high horse and stop acting like everybody needs to be as cheerful as themselves.

    I don't believe you or I have to be a grouch, but don't expect me to be overly excited to work.

    The last holiday (non-federal) I agreed/was nicely forced to work, I was told, it will be fun! The first issue was we were horribly understaffed that day. The second issue was that there was going to be a party with families throughout the day. Not that that's a bad thing, but just makes the unit a whole lot more busy and families will most definitely be showing up and needing assistance, hence more work.

    The glimmer of hope this was going to be "fun" was that there were multiple volunteers from the unit to come host and run the party, assist families/siblings, etc. Well, ONE volunteer showed up. ONE. In an already short-staffed unit, the working few of us were being called to hand out candy and participate in crafts with families who were arriving. Excuse me? I already have 2 more patients than I should, and now you are calling me to entertain? Needless to say, the day was anything but fun and I was not happy. Anyone who acted like that, I probably would have wanted to punch.

    So sure, if I have a quiet, nice assignment all day during a holiday, I can be as happy as I am any other day. But I won't be extra cheerful because I'm at work, I would still rather be somewhere else, everyone would.
  5. by   Stepper
    I recommend making a list of 10 things you are grateful for related to your job. For example- co-workers, patients, payday. I find it is difficult to down when you live in gratitude.
  6. by   jeastridge
    Quote from itsybitsy
    Whenever someone is like this, I usually think they need to get off their high horse and stop acting like everybody needs to be as cheerful as themselves.

    I don't believe you or I have to be a grouch, but don't expect me to be overly excited to work.

    The last holiday (non-federal) I agreed/was nicely forced to work, I was told, it will be fun! The first issue was we were horribly understaffed that day. The second issue was that there was going to be a party with families throughout the day. Not that that's a bad thing, but just makes the unit a whole lot more busy and families will most definitely be showing up and needing assistance, hence more work.

    The glimmer of hope this was going to be "fun" was that there were multiple volunteers from the unit to come host and run the party, assist families/siblings, etc. Well, ONE volunteer showed up. ONE. In an already short-staffed unit, the working few of us were being called to hand out candy and participate in crafts with families who were arriving. Excuse me? I already have 2 more patients than I should, and now you are calling me to entertain? Needless to say, the day was anything but fun and I was not happy. Anyone who acted like that, I probably would have wanted to punch.

    So sure, if I have a quiet, nice assignment all day during a holiday, I can be as happy as I am any other day. But I won't be extra cheerful because I'm at work, I would still rather be somewhere else, everyone would.
    It sounds like a very "not fun" day. Thanks for sharing your experience. It might be helpful to managers or others who may consider planning special activities on an already full day.
  7. by   RNtoNNP
    I agree that having a positive attitude makes a huge difference in how we handle working the holidays. Yes, it stinks to work the holidays, but it stinks for our patients and their families to have to spend holidays in the hospital too. Reminding myself of this helps me have a better attitude about it. Also, while I hate being away from my family on the holidays (especially Christmas), holidays at work can actually be fun. There is typically a more relaxed atmosphere with no management there and there's always food! If nothing else, at least nurses know how to throw a good potluck!
  8. by   adventure_rn
    Quote from RNtoNNP
    holidays at work can actually be fun. There is typically a more relaxed atmosphere with no management there and there's always food! If nothing else, at least nurses know how to throw a good potluck!
    Amen to that! Glad to know I'm not the only one who occasionally enjoys working holidays. Maybe it's because I'm single without family nearby, but I enjoy spending the holidays goofing around with my coworkers while getting paid double time to do it. This year we're having an ugly Christmas sweater party, complete with prizes for the ugliest sweater. I'm busting out a nurse-themed Christmas sweater that my grandma (also a nurse) bequeathed to me, complete with an embroidered/knit syringe and band-aid. It's pretty ugly, lol.

    We've never had staffing issues on holidays in the units where I've worked, mainly because a) management intentionally overstaffs to prevent this precise problem, and b) nobody calls in sick because nobody wants to be 'that guy' who called in on a holiday. 9 times out of 10, we're giving away vacation hours at the last minute because we're overstaffed (aka the Holiday Lottery).

    The bigger issue for us has actually been short-staffing on the days surrounding the holiday, since we don't intentionally overstaff, people don't feel as bad about calling in sick, and nobody wants to come in and pick up extra shifts at the last minute due to festivities and travel.
  9. by   jeastridge
    Quote from adventure_rn
    Amen to that! Glad to know I'm not the only one who occasionally enjoys working holidays. Maybe it's because I'm single without family nearby, but I enjoy spending the holidays goofing around with my coworkers while getting paid double time to do it. This year we're having an ugly Christmas sweater party, complete with prizes for the ugliest sweater. I'm busting out a nurse-themed Christmas sweater that my grandma (also a nurse) bequeathed to me, complete with an embroidered/knit syringe and band-aid. It's pretty ugly, lol.

    We've never had staffing issues on holidays in the units where I've worked, mainly because a) management intentionally overstaffs to prevent this precise problem, and b) nobody calls in sick because nobody wants to be 'that guy' who called in on a holiday. 9 times out of 10, we're giving away vacation hours at the last minute because we're overstaffed (aka the Holiday Lottery).

    The bigger issue for us has actually been short-staffing on the days surrounding the holiday, since we don't intentionally overstaff, people don't feel as bad about calling in sick, and nobody wants to come in and pick up extra shifts at the last minute due to festivities and travel.
    I like your creative spirit. The ugly sweater contest sounds like a fun time!
    Joy
  10. by   lindahartford
    My Mom was a nurse so I was used to scheduling Holidays at home diferently from most kids, but I never felt deprived. We rocked around Mom's schedule.
    As a Head Nurse, I always found out holiday preferences early and was always able to accomidate everyone at least every other year.
    Later as a visiting nurse, I worked with a Jewish nurse and for 25 years we covered each other on all our holidays and vacations. She worked Christmas, I worked New Year's, she workred Easter I did Passover. Then I covered her for Yom Kippur while she covered me for Labor Day weekend. My favorite was covering her for Thanksgiving as she always cooked a feast to which my husband and I were invited. The most fun was always Nov. 4th as she had a grandaughter in NC with a birthday on the 3rd and my NY granddaughter's was on the 5th. On the 4th, I did the early morning patients and waited for her call to say she was getting on the plane to be home to do the afternoon visits. Then I got on my plane. We never missed a visit.
  11. by   angelmomjr
    All these suggestions are awesome! I liked working the holidays. But as my children have grown up, I noticed that they missed a lot. There is no excitement to approaching, decorating, giving of gifts. Our holiday celebrations were always not on the holiday, 2 nurses, three military members there was never Christmas on 12/25. We have talked about it, I just regret as a single working mom how working all those holidays have affected my children and grandchildren.
    Oh then add Mother's day!
  12. by   jeastridge
    Quote from lindahartford
    My Mom was a nurse so I was used to scheduling Holidays at home diferently from most kids, but I never felt deprived. We rocked around Mom's schedule.
    As a Head Nurse, I always found out holiday preferences early and was always able to accomidate everyone at least every other year.
    Later as a visiting nurse, I worked with a Jewish nurse and for 25 years we covered each other on all our holidays and vacations. She worked Christmas, I worked New Year's, she workred Easter I did Passover. Then I covered her for Yom Kippur while she covered me for Labor Day weekend. My favorite was covering her for Thanksgiving as she always cooked a feast to which my husband and I were invited. The most fun was always Nov. 4th as she had a grandaughter in NC with a birthday on the 3rd and my NY granddaughter's was on the 5th. On the 4th, I did the early morning patients and waited for her call to say she was getting on the plane to be home to do the afternoon visits. Then I got on my plane. We never missed a visit.
    I love your story! It shows so much love, respect, flexibility and honesty! Thank you for sharing with all of us. Joy
  13. by   lindahartford
    Thanks so much for your comment. We both have lots of good memories. It was fun to share them. Linda
  14. by   Libby1987
    Anyone here ever have loved ones hospitalized on major holidays?

    When my dad's body was in the morgue one Thanksgiving, I would have given anything to have taken care of others' loved ones while my dad and family were home celebrating Thanksgiving without me.

    I had shared custody of my oldest kids since they were 2 and 3. I leaned more than 20 yrs ago how to enjoy the celebration on alternate days and my family, bless them, adapted as well. To have a family that made sure to get together with a dinner that rivaled anything served on the 3rd Thursday in Nov and Dec 25th so that my children and I could experience a full family holiday meant more than the traditional calendar day.

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