Long shifts, overnights, and demanding workloads are all a part of being a nurse. But no matter if you’re a 10-year veteran or just starting out, it’s never easy to miss the holidays because you have a shift.
Whether it’s a Thanksgiving or Christmas with the family, a romantic New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s dinner with your significant other, or a fun Memorial or Labor Day weekend away with your friends; missing out on celebrations is just another part of working in a career dedicated to service.
But you don’t always have to miss out on the fun. You do have some control over when you work and you can also find creative ways to celebrate! Here’s what you need to know when the next holiday rolls around.
The schedule gets decided early. Make adjustments in advance.
Holidays are often divided up early in the year. Sometimes hospitals or nursing facilities follow seniority when assigning holidays. Other times, they are divided evenly among the staff. You can volunteer to work holidays that aren’t as important to you to get off for others that are. Talk to your co-workers. Put in any requests for switches early on. You’ll have the best chance of a schedule adjustment if you make it weeks or months in advance of that 12-hour shift.
Prepare your family for your holiday work schedule.
You will likely hear loved ones complain that you are missing important family gatherings. Help your family understand how important your job is, and plan an alternative celebration. For example, you may not be able to join the family for Thanksgiving dinner but you could make it for a pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday night gathering or Black Friday shopping. Be part of the celebration any way you can. Ask them to save you some leftovers so you can enjoy that famous green bean casserole after the fact.
Restructure your holiday routine to minimize commitments.
Don’t offer to host the annual family holiday gathering or RSVP to many parties. Know that you have to work during the holidays and your free time is valuable. Scheduling too many commitments can easily cause you to burn out. Practice self-care during the holiday season. Do your best to reduce and relieve stress so that you will be there for your patients, your family, and most importantly, yourself.
Some holidays are busier than others at work. Prepare accordingly.
If you are an emergency nurse working a holiday like the 4th of July, prepare for an active night. Celebrations that include fireworks and sparklers could lead to injury. Also in July, you might experience the July effect, the time when new residents begin treating patients. As a nurse, you will want to support them to ensure there are no mistakes.
Expect senior leadership coverage to be lighter.
Most senior leaders will be at home, celebrating with their families on holidays. But they will be accessible. Make sure that you know how to reach them if there is a need.
It pays to work on holidays.
Many employers offer overtime or double time to work a holiday shift. Some also provide a free holiday meal. Enjoy those holiday perks and save that extra pay for something fun. You deserve it!
Technology can keep you connected.
If there is anything we learned from 2020, it’s how to celebrate holidays virtually. You can check in on your family celebrations while on your break via video chat or by sending photos back and forth.
Remember that you’re not the only one working the holiday.
Up to a quarter of all Americans work at least one holiday in the winter, according to the Daily Nurse. This includes your coworkers as well as restaurant staff, retail workers, police officers, and firefighters.
Your patients are also missing the celebration.
You can spread cheer with some holiday-themed scrubs and a conversation about your patients’ holiday traditions. Encourage families to bring in holiday decorations for their loved one’s room. If you have the time, help patients to video chat with their loved ones. It will make everyone feel great!
Just because you are working over the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with your work-family. You have an automatic guestlist for any holiday gathering at work. Plan a pot luck dinner where everyone brings a favorite from their family’s Thanksgiving celebration. Arrange a Secret Santa gift exchange with your co-workers. Toast to a New Year together and share your resolutions. Deck out in red, white, and blue for the 4th of July. Decorate the nurses’ station, etc.
If you start to get down about missing another holiday – remember your “why.” “When a person decides to become a nurse, they make the most important decision of their lives. They choose to dedicate themselves to the care of others.” – Margaret Harvey
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