Nursing in every dimension is all round the clock. Sickness does not recognize holidays, and that means we will always need nurses working the holidays. Someone has to be there for the patients.
Nurses often take this professional path to make a difference by helping others. An act that is entirely selfless and not about earning accolades or recognition.
The holidays, and the Christmas holidays in particular when everyone is preparing to be with their families, is one example.
It is during these moments that nurses portray their highest sense of vocation through sacrifice. The key holidays become the hardest to deal with, especially for new nurses. And also the smaller ones like anniversaries and birthdays find most at work in one capacity or another because the sick people do not suddenly get well so that everyone can celebrate special occasions.
The fact is nursing and healthcare is a 24/7 profession, and that is something that they do not discuss enough in nursing and med school. That is why most new grads get shocked to find themselves working through one or more major holidays.
We need to have more candid conversations about these realities and what to do to take care of ourselves and others better.
So What Gives?
Healthcare facilities always have to stay open to provide care to patients. They also have to ensure there is adequate staff to handle new cases and those already hospitalized.
The care services nurses provide are necessary throughout the day and night in all healthcare facilities. That includes hospice, hospitals, and home health care. In clinics and Doctor’s offices, these can be 10-hour shifts through the week and on-call weekends, but remember, most nurses work in hospitals and hospices where there is a constant flow of patients.
Tips for Coping When Working Through the Holidays
Although working as a nurse means giving up holidays with your family or children, it always helps to remember your purpose. For me, that was thinking about my patients. These are people, who like me, wanted to be home with their families as well. While we work hard to get them discharged and go home to their families, that sometimes does not happen. They need us to stay with them as they take the long road to recovery. Hopefully, we can make the season a happy occasion for the patients and ourselves as we care for them.
I want to give tips to help all nurses and grads navigate working during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
I. Get Your Mindset Right
As a nurse working through the holidays may feel like it takes forever, but it does not- the shifts change as you move into seniority, and there may be changes that allow for trade-offs.
If not, you can use the time instead to create a meaningful holiday season when you carry the correct perspective. Even though it is time spent away from family, this can be time spent with your work family. It helps to connect with your co-workers and see them as your second family. After all, you spend most of your time with them. Look at it as an opportunity to celebrate with them; share a meal or treats.
Then, have a positive attitude and wear your smile while making those rounds. Patients appreciate the healthcare workers who are stuck caring for them during the holidays when their families can not even visit. That is a reward in itself.
II. Prepare Psychologically to Work
Different facilities have different schedules but what is constant is the necessity of nurses working the holidays, at least a few holidays around the year. In most places, they divide the holidays early in the year, and each nurse has to take a major and minor holiday. If there is no escaping the possibility, you must as well prepare for it.
III. Plan for Trade-offs Early
Like we said earlier, changes can happen within the year as people quit or new hires get on board. That can be a
chance to make a trade-off for holidays that are meaningful for you. Some nurses may be willing to trade or readily volunteer if it is not their holiday. In this case, you have to plan by following the rules in your facility or unit and letting the manager approve.
IV. Plan Your Working Schedule
Nurses working the holidays often find the work emotionally and physically taxing, even more during the Christmas holidays. Don’t go overboard in an attempt to finish your tasks and week over so you can leave. Doing that can be detrimental to your health, not to mention the quality of care to your patients. So, even if you are not going to celebrate the holidays with your family, make sure to plan your work shifts, take breaks, create downtime and take care of yourself.
Working during Christmas and other holidays is not a favorite part for most nurses, myself included, but it comes with the job. So, every day the goal is to offer the best care to patients because nursing is a calling where those that enter the profession know they will be working with patients 24/7. I salute all the nurses that try to carry their responsibilities with a smile-especially during the holidays.