The other night I was completely prepared to work my Thanksgiving holiday night-shift. I’d baked a couple of casseroles to share in the unit feast, I’d made my excuses to the three different holiday meals I’d been invited to, and I’d rescheduled my own family’s feast. Then the phone rang at 5PM and the charge nurse asked me if I wanted to be placed on call for the night!!!
Yes, I did a happy dance: I was free and elated. Being called-off gifted the holiday to this nurse and my spirits experienced an unexpected boost. Yet for many nurses, this type of scenario rarely occurs, In fact, when I went not nursing school I had no idea how many holidays I would be giving up—not to mention soccer games, family get-togethers and romantic evening with my husband. Working, especially on nights, takes a toll on the quality time we have to spend with our loved ones—and no, that time isn’t really compensated for in a night differential.
But here’s the thing: I have chosen this profession, chosen my hours, and therefore need to find a way to make this job work for me, especially at the holidays. So my coping skills include the following:
I participate in movable feasts. In other words, I’ve learned to move some holidays around to fit my schedule. There are limits to this, though.
Stay Flexible. I plan my schedule and work out trades. Most nurses are happy to trade holidays with me, I have found. I have gladly traded a Thanksgiving for a Christmas with nurses who maybe don’t celebrate Christmas, etc.
I also try to join in the fun. My unit also has lots of opportunities to celebrate for the holidays. The first year of my nursing career found me in such a funk that I became somewhat of a scrooge, didn’t go to the hospital ball, didn’t participate in the Secret Santa exchange, and didn’t even feast with my co-workers! This really affected my attitude, and now while I don’t do it all, I do add to the festivities and I have found my attitude has improved a great deal.
And most importantly, I communicate. I tell my family and friends what holidays I’ll be working, I work with my manager and coworkers to make things happen and overall I’ve found other people willing to bend a little so that I can be a part of the celebrations.
Holidays are still a work in progress for me, and I must admit to being frustrated at times about missing things. But ultimately, I am working it out. This year I miraculously was given a Thanksgiving—for which I am very thankful. I enjoyed it with my family and am anticipating a wonderful Christmas whether I work or not!
This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.