Admittedly, I’m not working on Christmas this year. I will be with my family enjoying morning cinnamon rolls and eating beef tenderloin for dinner. Mmmm….. But, I have celebrated many a holiday within the walls of an urgent care clinic or the emergency department. Working on holidays, especially the biggies, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, is a pretty big drag. Who wants to celebrate Christmas Eve with an early morning hospital shift hanging over their head?
As nurse practitioners, for many of us, working on holidays is inevitable. We don’t have jobs that are optional- someone’s got to be working in the hospital at all times. But, growing up with an ER physician father and working as an ER NP myself, I can personally attest that family life, Christmas traditions, and enjoying the holidays is possible amidst working a hospital-based schedule. Sure, it won’t be quite the same as having a week off work, but making the most of working the holidays can be done with a little intention and creativity.
Here are a few tactics I use for balancing work, family, and festivities over the holidays…and actually enjoying the season.
1. Tweak holiday traditions to fit your schedule
Tradition is part of what makes Christmas so special. Once errands are run, traditions bring a sense of coziness, comfort, and togetherness to our homes. Don’t let working on Christmas Day take this away. Tweak your traditions slightly so you can enjoy them as much as possible with the rest of your family. Open presents a little earlier or later than you normally would to accommodate your schedule. Wake the family up early to enjoy a traditional breakfast together before your shift. Whatever your norm, try to preserve it as much as possible while shifting around scheduling so you can take part.
2. Bring the holidays to work
Your coworkers are in the same predicament when it comes to working over the holidays. So, make a holiday memory on the job. Create the tradition of a potluck dinner during your shift with each person brining their favorite dish. Coordinate ahead of time so you don’t end up with 8 platters of potatoes and no meat. Don’t forget to dress festively. Break out the red, green and glitter to embrace the spirit of the season. Oh yeah, also play some Christmas tunes.
3. Get the whole family involved
Chances are you’re bummed about being scheduled to work over the holidays. So, let your family know. Suggest small things they can do to otherwise lighten your load allowing you to enjoy the time you do have at home. Get help with the meal prep and gift wrapping clean up that can seriously cut into holiday enjoyment. This will leave you feeling more relaxed despite your work obligations. You may even suggest your family come pay you a visit on your lunch break…with a hot plate of food, of course.
4. Treat yourself with your holiday pay
In most cases, you are paid a significant shift differential for working on Christmas. And, let’s be honest, the extra cash makes working over the holidays a little more tolerable. Plan to treat yourself to something off your wish list with your next paycheck. Or, think about the smiles on your kids’ faces as they open the gifts you were able to afford with the added supplement to your income.
5. Put things in perspective
While working over the holidays is a total downer, at least the shoe’s not on the other foot. You could be the patient admitted to the hospital, right? Use your holiday shift to make someone else’s day special. Give your patients a little extra attention. Play some festive music at the nurse’s station or pull up a chair for a chat. Not only will your minutes at work pass quickly, you will fill the emptiness that comes with being away from your family on Christmas Day- for yourself and your patients.
Are you working over the holidays? How are you making the most of the situation?
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