Coping with Working on Holidays

Many places of employment enjoy a few days, if not weeks, of time off around major holidays. But for millions of healthcare workers across the country, the flow of patients and the need for care does not stop on these days and they are still needed to keep EDs, hospitals, and clinics running smoothly day in and day out. It can be difficult to head to work on days (or nights) when friends and family are off work and gathered together, but there are several things you can do to cope with this challenge and help you remember how integral these jobs are.

  • Be thankful. First and foremost, remember that while you may not want to be at work on a holiday, those who need your care most likely do not want to be a patient on this day either. Serious illnesses, emergency surgeries, accidents, and even the birth of a child are not typically ideal events to happen on a holiday and it is important to remember that your patients are missing time with their loved ones as well. So while it is no fun to be working while others have a good time without you, try to maintain an attitude of thankfulness that you are healthy and get to go home at the end of the shift.
  • Plan ahead. Pair up with a work friend a few weeks beforehand and see what their holiday plans are and if you can work out coverage for each other. Maybe your family isn’t in town until the Friday after Thanksgiving and you can work the holiday for a friend in exchange for her working your favorite holiday, New Year’s Eve.   Maybe you have to work Christmas Day but your family would be willing to gather for food and gifts on Christmas Eve so you can be there. While it may not be ideal, a little planning ahead can help reach a middle ground where everyone is happy.
  • Celebrate with work family. Just because you are at work doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Participate in planning a potluck or secret santa gift exchange. Check your company policy on fun attire like holiday scrubs, fun socks, or hats. 
  • Set Boundaries. Realize that it is okay to miss some of these functions, particularly if you work night shift and need to sleep at some point during all the festivities. Sometimes family will not understand why you can’t come to a lunch gathering if you don’t work until evening, or why you can’t drive 5 hours on your one day off between shifts. Stand up for yourself and don’t compromise your needs for sleep or rest just to make it to a family gathering you might be too exhausted to enjoy.
  • Finally, remember you aren’t alone. Millions of other healthcare workers make the same sacrifices as you for a career they love and to make sure patients get the care they need, no matter the day of the year. So go give your best work to those who need it, and Happy Holidays!

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