Thanksgiving Sanity Savers for Overworked NPs

Is anyone else beginning to feel the effects of holiday stress? With several Type A family members in the mix, family texts are flying around our household not just with Thanksgiving but also Christmas plans. Yikes! Next week I have work commitments to attend to, night shifts in the emergency department to cover, grocery shopping trips, and several airport runs scheduled to pick up family to manage. Not to mention, I sort-of accidentally invited our neighbors over for Thanksgiving Day brunch. I’m sure your schedule looks similar.

As busy nurse practitioners, particularly those of us who run on too little sleep, the holiday season can certainly take a toll. Even if you do have time to execute the necessary steps for cooking the tastiest Thanksgiving dinner of all time, the weight of the ‘To-Do’ list involved is wearing. Sometimes you just can’t do it all. So, a few time-saving, mind-freeing shortcuts are in order.

If you find yourself overwhelmed this week, consider the following Thanksgiving hacks for busy nurse practitioners.

1. Buy Your Bird

There’s no shame in purchasing part of your Thanksgiving Dinner pre-cooked. If you find taking responsibility for the turkey stressful, order out. Consider doing the same with some (or all!) side items. Hint – place any pre-purchased menu items in a serving dish before family arrives, toss the packaging in the dumpster, and guests won’t know the difference. Yeah, yeah, buying ahead may not be in the true spirit of the Thanksgiving feast, but sometimes the busy NP’s gotta give!

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2. Plan a Pot-Luck

If you’re not really into cooking, baking and cleaning, or are covering a shift at the hospital cramping your schedule, ask family, friends and other Thanksgiving Day guests to each bring a side item or dessert. Pop a turkey in the oven yourself and voila! You’ve got a full buffet with minimal effort for all parties involved. This approach is particularly helpful for nurse practitioner students and classmates who are unable to travel home for the holiday. There’s no shame in asking others to pitch in.

3. Celebrate Early or Late

If you’re a nurse practitioner working in a hospital or clinic with holiday hours, planning for the Thanksgiving meal becomes overwhelming. Your shift may not go as planned, a Code Blue leaving the turkey burning in your oven. Lack of time (or energy!) to hit up the grocery store on your day off can leave you scrambling to locate picked-over ingredient essentials in the store. So, why not celebrate with a Thanksgiving meal a day early or late? There’s no sense in stressing yourself out to stick to convention. Make or break your own family traditions.

4. Be a Super-Planner

I’m a list-maker and it saves my behind when it comes to coordinating things like making sure my family from out-of-town is fed three meals a day while crashing at my house. Plan meals ahead. Draft an exhaustive grocery list so a single trip to the store has you covered. Clean, peel and chop fresh ingredients ahead of time. You may even want to consider pre-measuring ingredients if you’ll be particularly crunched for time on the big day.

5. Call in Reinforcements

As nurse practitioners, we don’t have the luxury of a lunch break on which we can run hit up the bakery or the flexibility to leave the clinic or hospital mid-shift to accommodate a time-sensitive errand or two. Not to mention, working 12-hour shifts may leave you tied to your job long before the retailers you rely on open or close. So, hire some help.

If you have kids, ask babysitters if they would be willing to run a few errands for you this week at their standard childcare rate. Neighborhood college students out on break also make willing ‘runners’. If you’re not the kind to cut corners for the holiday meal, overworked or not, outsourcing responsibilities can help.

6. Take a Chill Pill

Tempted as you might be to prescribe yourself a little Xanax to make it through the next two weeks, that’s not what I’m talking about here. If you’re working full-time as a nurse practitioner and balancing hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, it’s not going to be perfect. Save your sanity by being OK with cutting a few corners. Ditch cloth napkins. Skip the centerpiece. Instead, pour yourself a very full glass of wine and take the time you’ve saved by less than perfect prep to chat with friends and family. Give up a little control so Thanksgiving doesn’t leave you totally drained.

Do you have any advice for managing Thanksgiving stress as an overworked nurse practitioner?


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