Holiday Hierarchy

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

The holidays for any healthcare worker is tough. As a nurse we don’t get the ‘traditional’ holiday, so we either have to celebrate our holidays on alternate days or beg for the time off.

This gets even more complicated when you have more than one nurse (or health care worker) in the family (or single household)

Then the equation gets even further complicated when you consider the children of the family (or household) and then making time for the spouse’s family members.

So we nurses always try our best to ‘plan ahead’. Making the appropriate phone calls, figuring out the plan of attack, what day will you actually see your family (all together), will it be before the actual holiday, or after, etc., etc.

So here’s my question:

How are the holiday work schedules decided at your job?

I’ve discovered there is more than one method out there, and I’m convinced that nobody has it right yet. When I was the ‘green’ nurse I used to get angry at the ‘seniority’ rule. The nurses who were there longer got first ‘dibs’. Now that I’m more the ‘seasoned’ nurse with some years under my belt I’m not nearly as angry at that thought since I’ve ‘put my time in’.

There are other methods of ‘signing up’. Some places will let you ‘choose’ your cluster of holidays. They will cluster Christmas and New Year’s Eve together, then cluster Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day together. The idea is to try and make it fair and evenly spread amongst the staff.

You have the single, engaged, married, with or without children, out of town families and strongly traditional types of employees that are always vying there way to what they think is ‘right’.

What do you think is the right way, fair way and decent way of spreading the ‘holiday cheer’?

Let’s be honest here folks, none of us ‘like’ working on the holiday. We nurses may love our job, but who wants to be working on the holiday??

So this is all about ‘you’ and your time with your family. How can we keep the ‘natives’ happy while making sure we satisfy our own needs? We want to be team players, but our ‘team’ is not where we like spending our holidays.

I’d love to hear your experiences. What do you think works well, and what do you think is the worst way to handle the holiday work schedules?

Here are answers from our Facebook nurses!

We have “A” and “B” holidays. They alternate each year. And if you have to work a holiday you want off you’re more than welcome to get it covered, if you can’t, then you have to work. Also, it makes planning trips easy because you already know which holidays you will be obligated to for the year.

Mary B.

Self-scheduling works great in my department! Full time must choose to work 2 summer holidays and 3 winter holidays. PRN (which I am) must choose 1 summer holiday and 2 winter holidays. Also, we recently voted to include Easter in the summer holidays and to include Halloween in the winter holidays. It makes it more fair for everyone who wants those days off and those who don’t care.

-Erin B.

We have to work one of each. For example: Thanksgiving or the day before, Christmas Eve or Day, New Year’s Eve or Day. Then the person that does staffing makes a budget list if you work that day your name goes in a hat and she draws the first 6 names for every shift and every day. Then, if there is budget, it goes one to six and you can decline if you want.
-Alisha W.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. As a hospital CEO, I rotated all call schedules with my executive staff, PLUS on major holidays I always toured all hospital units ( including the boiler room) and shifts to say “thank you” for your service here today. You are special ! WE were the team.

  2. As a hospital CEO, I rotated all call schedules with my executive staff, PLUS on major holidays I always toured all hospital units to say “thank you” for your service here today. You are special ! WE were the team.

  3. We rotate every other year for all holidays. Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day; and New Years Eve/Day.If low census, it used to go by seniority, but now it goes by last person to have a day off. (new this year — not sure how I feel about that yet!) It’s nice to have both Christmas Eve and day off, and vice versa for New Years. Easier to plan for any holiday, since you know what you work every year.

  4. We work every third holiday. Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and Easter are not paid holidays but we include them as nobody wants to work them. I work nights so our holidays are the night before. But we include the night before and the night of as holidays, so we usually end up working 1 but at least you get some of it off.

  5. Working home health it is not an issue for me anymore. I do remember working in the hospital though and it was cut throat because there was no system. I was a senior employee and worked or got called in on most every holiday due to younger inexperienced employees just not showing up. Being real big on patient care, as most nurses are, I would just go in and due what I made an oath to do. Us senior nurses ended celebrating holidays with coworkers and patients….

  6. I have been in seniority, self and rotating schedules for holidays and the best is self scheduling that incorporates some seniority and rotation.

    My team had lists by seniority but we negotiated among ourselves in a way that we rotated but also based on personal needs. The critical element was considered for each other. One Thanksgiving for example my coworker had to cook for her family of 4 boys and their sponsored hockey students by herself so of course I gave her my holiday.
    When several of us became supervisors we continued our consideration for each other. I often went away (250 Miles) for a holiday at the end of the year to be with my husband and my family. My coworkers always helped to make my holidays work.
    The key element is honoring each other

  7. I’ve worked a lot of places. What seemed to make everyone happy was when there was a three year rotation list. If you worked Christmas Eve, then next year you worked Christmas day, but the third year you got both off. The other holidays were also rotated in a similar way. If someone quit, the person who replaced them fell into their spots on the rotation. Made it easy to make plans with family or for travel. You knew way ahead of time what your schedule was.


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