Working over the holidays is a reality check for nurses. While other professionals get this time off to be with their loved ones, nurses are caring for their patients and working to ensure the safety of other people’s friends and family members. While it is an honor at any time to care for the sick or injured, we understand it can be especially difficult at the celebratory times of the year.
To make these occurrences a tad easier, and even fun, here are 10 ways to make the most of your holiday nursing shift.
1. Plan ahead
Start planning your holiday shifts way ahead of time. Coordinate with your loved ones on days to celebrate that work around your schedule. For instance, if you are working over Thanksgiving, plan to celebrate a day or two later. Speak with your manager about the best way to ensure you are there to cover your shift, but that you also have time built in for those holidays that are important to you.
2. Ask for help
Do you normally do the bulk of the Christmas or Hanukkah cooking? Ask your family members to pitch in or organize a pot luck so everyone shares the labor. If you know you are scheduled to work over a holiday, know your limits and time constraints and ask those around you to assist in the holiday preparations.
3. Be prepared
If you are scheduled to work over certain holidays, be prepared to meet any holiday-related needs of patients. Be on the lookout for complications of diabetes and dehydration over Halloween and be sensitive to how costumes may interfere with your ability to care for a patient or how they may affect a patient, especially those with a mental illness. Be ready for cooking-related injuries, such as burns or cuts, around Thanksgiving. Pay extra attention to patients suffering from depression around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If you know what to look for, you will feel more prepared when encountering these situations.
4. Make your work space feel like home
With permission from your manager, decorate your work station over the holidays. Put up paper pumpkins and turkeys. String twinkle lights and set up a holiday tree or bush. Just be sure to be sensitive and inclusive of everyone’s holidays, not just your own.
5. Organize a work party
Many times, your co-workers can feel like family. Take some time during a shift to celebrate with your team. Have everyone bring in their favorite holiday treat or consider exchanging small gifts. You may also consider planning a holiday party outside of your work setting. It’s nice to take the time out to blow off steam and enjoy your co-workers’ company.
6. Celebrate when you can
Working over New Year’s Eve? Celebrate at a time that works for you. Start the countdown at 5am with the other nurses working alongside you. If you want to celebrate with family and friends, you can do the same – pick another day and/or time, adjust your clocks and watches and ring in the New Year accordingly.
7. Be resourceful
Make the most of your breaks during your shift. If able, Skype with friends and family, follow their photos on Facebook or Instagram, or ask someone to share videos of the holiday gatherings with you. Utilize available technology to stay as connected as possible.
8. Be mindful
Be mindful that the patients are there for the holidays too. Try to lift their spirits by asking if they would like their room decorated or try speaking with them about happy holiday memories. You may be able to help accommodate visitors or help patients get in touch with family and friends.
9. Know your limits
Too busy to decorate for your favorite holiday? Not enough time to go to the mall to buy gifts? Too stressed to cook your traditional holiday meals? Cut corners where you can; shop online, skip the decorating all together, order take-out or pick up prepared food from a local store. Determine what you can do without and compromise where you can.
10. Focus on the positive
Depending on your work place, there may be benefits to working a holiday shift, such as extra pay or the next holiday off. During the holidays, you may also get to enjoy a slower work pace and a shorter commute. On top of that, you are in it together with your fellow nurses and your patients, who all are there to share the holiday with you.