Mindset Matters: A Caregiver’s Guide to Working Through the Holidays

It’s official; the holidays are upon us. Does this instantly give you a warm feeling or does it fill you with dread, knowing you’ll be working? In healthcare, it’s understood that we’re required to show up for our patients –no matter what day of the year it is. Still, surviving the holidays does take a special mindset. So, we asked a special group of our most experienced nurses and CNAs to share their insights and offer meaningful advice for surviving and thriving while working through the holidays.

Request Your Holiday Shifts Early

As per diem or supplemental staff, you will most likely be expected to work at least one of the holidays. Pamela, a 23-year contract nurse told us that she likes to volunteer for her holiday shifts early on.

“The sooner I know what shift I’ll be working, the sooner I can begin to prepare. Just because you have to work the day of, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with your family another day.”

Host an Open House

Jennifer, a CNA shared that her favorite holiday spent working was when her department hosted an open house for family members. If inviting family members to events isn’t common at your workplace, the holidays are a perfect reason to do so.

“My kids loved getting to see where I worked and meeting my ‘work family.’ Plus, it made the holiday more memorable. My daughter still asks when I am going to work another Christmas holiday so she can come for a visit.”

Go Caroling

Music has a way of lifting people’s spirits. This is especially true during the Christmas season. Not only will it lift your spirits it will also bring joy to patients who are stuck in the hospital over the holidays. Jonathan, a medical surgical nurse told us,

 “Caroling has become a tradition. Each Christmas, we go from room-to-room singing classics like “Feliz Navidad” and “White Christmas.” He added, “we even take requests.”

Create New Traditions

Bekah, a trauma RN shared how her department survives the Christmas holidays by playing Elf on the Shelf —trauma style. Each day throughout the season, the elf suffers a new and inexplicable injury. It’s amazing how creative nurses can be. She adds,

“It’s really all about making the most of it because even though you are missing out on one holiday at the end of your shift you’re going home and the patients are not as lucky. It’s all about perspective.”

Haley, a nurse at a busy medical center, shared with us that her coworkers’ favorite tradition is a unique take on Secret Santa. Each nurse exchanges a new pair of fuzzy socks —the more outrageous, the better.

“During the long holiday shift, it’s fun to see everyone’s crazy socks peaking out from their scrubs. It always brings a smile.”

Prepare a Potluck Feast

All of the nurses and CNAs that we talked to said that “feasting” makes their holidays spent working more bearable. A potluck feels much more festive and cozy than an elaborate dinner. Also, it’s much easier to plan; with everyone bringing a special dish to the table the meal comes together without added stress. Have a few co-workers that aren’t keen on cooking? No problem, there is always a need for plates, cutlery, drinks, and festive decorations!

Benefits of Working the Holidays

It’s never easy working when your loved ones get to enjoy the day off. However, there can be real benefits to working on a holiday.

Holiday Pay

The first benefit that comes to mind is financial. Many hospitals and clinics will incentivise employees to work the holiday by offering bonus pay. It may only be a few dollars per hour but it  can really add up if you choose to work consecutive holiday shifts.

Recognition and Goodwill

By stepping up to the plate and offering to work a holiday shift so that other workers can spend the day with their family —not only are you sowing the seeds of goodwill, you are also sending a clear message to management. Teri Hockett, a hospital CEO says,

“Nothing shows dedication to your job like volunteering to work on a holiday when others are lobbying for the day off. It gives us an opportunity to recognize the employees who go the extra mile.”

Your Chance to Shine

Just like working the weekends or nights, working on the holidays can be a bit more hectic since there are limited ancillary resources available throughout the hospital. Situations are likely to arise that allow you to show off your critical thinking skills, creative problem solving, and leadership abilities.

Personal Satisfaction

Chances are, you will feel great about yourself. When you choose to work the holidays, you are helping patients, coworkers, and supervisors by pitching in to make their lives a little easier during an extremely stressful time. Jerri, a veteran LPN of 25 years, tells us that she always asks to work on Christmas because she wants the other nurses to enjoy their holidays.

 “I look forward to working Christmas every year. It makes me feel so good.”

Mindset Matters

For some nurses and clinicians, working on a holiday can be the greatest gift they can give to others or it can feel like a complete burden. It really depends on the situation and your mindset. There is perhaps nothing worse than feeling pressured to work a holiday, or finding out at the last minute you are required to work. Accepting the situation, and making the best of it is the only healthy course. Remember that empathy is the one emotion that sets nurses and caregivers apart from all other professions. You have the unique and special privilege of bringing care and joy to your patients —who are also spending the holidays away from their friends and loved ones.

We want to hear from you! What are your top tips for making the best of work during the holiday season?


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