Holidays In The Hospital

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Photo by Pietro De Grandi on Unsplash

I know that many of us hate working on the holidays. Chances are, if you are or ever have been a floor nurse, you have worked at least one holiday in your career.

One of my favorite “holiday at work” stories took place on Thanksgiving a few years ago. We were all grumbling about working on Turkey Day instead of being at home with our friends and families. Then a patient came in who trumped us all.

Not only was he admitted to the hospital on Thanksgiving, but it was his BIRTHDAY as well! As if that wasn’t enough, his entire family was going to be at his house, so his wife had to go home to finish cooking. There he was, all alone, on Thanksgiving and his birthday.

One of the nurses went across the street to the cafeteria and bought him a muffin. We found a candle and all went in to sing him “Happy Birthday.” The surprise in his eyes was awesome. Then we realized that we all could watch the parade in his room, and we had our very own Happy Birth-Thanksgiving-Day Celebration—nursing style!

Whenever I am annoyed about working on a holiday, I remember that patient. Obviously, we were all supposed to be at work on that day so that we could make his day a little brighter and make him a little bit better. And maybe he will always save a tiny piece of cake for us nurses!


What about you? Share your favorite nurse holiday story in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. My story is Christmas in the OR. I was working the holiday on evening shift and as the Charge Nurse, I had organized a holiday pot luck with the rest of the staff… I brought the main dish and they all brought sides and goodies.

    It was a fairly quiet shift and after finishing up a lap chole we were gonna clean up and have our feast. Well, on their way back from an errand, two of my surgical techs ran into the family of our patient- patient’s son, his wife and young daughter. They asked for directions to the cafe so they could grab dinner before the patient went to her room. My techs said no one should be having Christmas dinner in the hospital cafeteria and they were welcome to join us. The son said they didn’t mind, they were Muslim and didn’t celebrate Christmas so it was no big deal. My techs wouldn’t hear of it. “Christmas is about family and good food… doesn’t matter what you are. Not all of us usually celebrate it either but here were are, so come on!” So, they joined out motley crew for a feast of vegetarian lasagna (one tech was Hindi) and other yummy dishes our team had made. While we ate, the family asked us about what we normally did for the holiday. Comments about time with family and friends and memories of when kids were young and such were brought up. They asked if it was hard to work on Christmas. We all said we understood it as part of the job and didn’t really mind- that we always found a way to celebrate with our “OR Family”.
    After eating, I brought out some presents for the team- some fishing lures for one tech, gum for one who was trying to quit smoking, new scrub hats for the anesthetist… i even snagged one of the teddy bears we hand out to pedi patients for the family’s daughter. She asked how Santa knew where she was and why she got a present if she had never celebrated Christmas before. Our nurse aide, a wise older woman who had seen it all, said “Child, Santa is for everyone. No matter who you are or what you believe. He doesn’t care. He just wants to make you feel loved and included. That is why you and your mom and dad are here with us now.”
    When we got word the patient was being moved to the floor, we bid our guests farewell and didn’t give what we did any more thought- it is just what we do. Well, a few weeks later, our director received a letter from the family explaining what we did and how before he met us, as a Muslim, he just saw Christmas as any other day but now, every 12/25 he and his family would get a tree, exchange presents, enjoy their time together and remember the acts of kindness and fellowship the “OR Family” extended to them because Santa and real meaning of this holiday season is for everyone.

  2. Loved that story. I always tried to remember that the patients wanted to be there less than I did, so what did I have to complain about? At least I got to go home to my holiday celebration eventually. While I was there I tried to help them make the best of it.


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