Being a nurse during the holidays
One unique aspect of working in healthcare is that hospitals are always open. That means nurses, doctors and support staff need to be there to provide care to patients. We also need to ensure that there is an adequate number of staff to care for patients who will be admitted, as well as those who are already hospitalized. The truth is, when I was in nursing school, I never thought too much about giving up holidays with my children, family and friends, but it was my reality for over a dozen years.
Although being a nurse during the holidays was at times difficult, I always had my patients in mind—people I’m sure wanted to be home as well—so I tried to make the most of having them with me. I also have a soft spot for Christmas because my oldest son was born Christmas morning, and I know what it’s like being in the hospital on Christmas day. As providers, we do the best we can to create a happy, festive environment (when we can do things like decorate). We work hard to get patients discharged so they can get back home with their families and loved ones. Unfortunately, there are times when they need to stay with us. Hopefully, it’s a happy occasion and it’s the birth of a baby like my son. We try to make the best of their time with us, because we know sometimes patients are facing a long road to recovery.
Like millions of my nursing peers and medical providers, I have worked my share of Thanksgivings and Christmases, sacrificing family time to spend the holidays instead with my OB team. Here are a few tips I’d like to offer my peers while they are away from their loved ones and caring for the patients they have also grown to love.
- Although it feels like shifts last forever when away from your family, that time is still time spent with your work family. Your coworkers turn into your second family, and having a work family makes working on holidays a bit more rewarding. Working in general, we go above and beyond to take care of our patients, but the holidays seems to give us an extra push for everyone.
- Patients are extremely appreciative of the medical and nursing staff that are stuck working. No patient wants to be in the hospital on a holiday either, so a smiling face and positive attitude from staff always makes a huge difference, and that in itself can be very rewarding.
- Take the time to share a good meal and treats with coworkers as you are able. Since you are not able to celebrate with your own families, it is always great to celebrate with your work family.
Working holidays may not have always been my favorite part of being a nurse, but it was part of the profession and my goal was always to provide great care to my patients. I have a continued appreciation for all healthcare providers who work holidays. Nursing is a calling for us and we entered the profession knowing we will be caring for patients 24/7/365, and I believe most nurses try to carry out their responsibilities with a smile—especially during the holiday season.
So, for all the nurses out there working on December 25 or January 1—and for those taking well-earned time off—thank you, and have a wonderful holiday season!
-Danielle Miller, PhD (c), MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, Chief Nursing Officer, Clinical Applications