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4 Ways Nurses Can Cope with Holiday Scheduling

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

The time of Christmas decorations, fattening food, crazed shoppers and heavy traffic is here. Or, for healthcare workers, it’s a time of short-staffing, influenza, stressful schedules and disastrous nurse-patient ratios. Many of us look forward to the holiday season with great anticipation of the festivities and traditions. But, there is also the anxiety that comes with working the holidays. No one wants to be away from their family, but, for hospital staff, it’s inevitable. So, here are four ways to help nurses cope with holiday schedules.

1. Split Shifts

Some facilities allow staff to split shifts if you’re working 12 hours. Personally, I prefer to do this. If done properly, no one will need to work a full shift on holiday. For example, rather than work 12 hours on Thanksgiving, splitting shifts may require you to work six hours on Thanksgiving and six hours on Christmas.

“Some people would rather work an entire holiday if it means they will get a different holiday off entirely.”

Check with your facility’s holiday policies. If there is adequate staffing on your unit, splitting shifts may be an option. Some people would rather work an entire holiday if it means they will get a different holiday off entirely. If splitting shifts don’t appeal to you, get with a coworker who would be willing to trade holidays with you. If you are working Christmas this year, work with someone to get New Year’s Day off or Christmas off next year.

2. Potluck

The way to a nurse’s heart is through his/her stomach. Even though you may be missing out on Mammaw’s famous turkey and dressing, you can still enjoy a home-cooked meal at work.

Nurse Potluck

Send out a sign-up sheet for staff to bring a dish to share. Eating with your work family is better than eating alone. And you get more than one big holiday meal!

3. Secret Santa

This is a super fun way to lighten up the work day. If management allows, send out a sign-up sheet for a gift exchange. For example, staff can draw names and purchase a gift for the person whose name is drawn. Put a fun spin on the exchange by playing Dirty Santa, where everyone buys gag gifts. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, elaborate gift. A silly gift is sure to put a smile on your coworker’s face.

4. Decorate

Holiday decorations and lights make everyone smile, even patients. Within the fire code, decorate as much as possible. Simple decorations, such as lights or streamers can lighten the mood for patients and staff. Wearing silly hats or glasses are also festive ideas. Decorate equipment, if possible, or put up a Christmas tree.

Nursing Christmas Tree 2

Maybe hand out Christmas cards to the patients or have a countdown to the New Year with treats and party hats.

I hope these ways for coping with the holidays are helpful to you. Stay active for your patients and yourself. Working the holidays is depressing, but it is even more so for the patients. Remember to smile and have fun! What does your facility do to cope with the holidays?

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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