When You Can’t Be With Your Kids: A Guide for Nurses to Get Through the Holidays

When You Can’t Be With Your Kids: A Guide for Nurses to Get Through the Holidays

Payton Sy, RN, BSN Payton Sy, RN, BSN
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There’s no way around it.

Nurses that work traditional bedside roles know that the holidays are a tumultuous time for staffing. Along with being the peak of flu season with sick days and call-outs, there’s also vacation time and a holiday rotation at play. So, many go into the season knowing they’re working holidays as a nurse, but others are forced with mandatory overtime or lured in with shift bonuses.

Either way, working holidays as a nurse likely isn’t your idea of a good time. Fortunately, there are ways to make it bearable, and even enjoyable.

Set The Scene For Your Kids

If you have family at home that will be enjoying the holiday without you, don’t feel like you can’t participate in the season. Here are some ways to make it feel like you didn’t miss out.

Move the Celebration

Especially with young kids, it doesn’t hurt to move the holiday. Many nurses move their family Christmas to the 23rd or the 26th, and then the 25th becomes a regular day, with nothing for you to miss out on.

Build Anticipation

If you can’t be there on the holiday itself, try to sprinkle some family traditions and outings throughout the weeks leading up to it. Always donate toys to a charity? Do a family gift exchange? Visit a local wintertime fair? Pencil those activities into your calendar so no family traditions go missing this year just because you’re working.

Plan Ahead

Some family members may have a hard time coping with the fact that you’re working holidays as a nurse. Set them up for success by letting them know as soon as possible that the holidays will look a little different this year, but that you’ll still participate in all your usual traditions.

Create a Festive Work Environment

Now that things with your family have been squared away, don’t forget to take care of yourself. You deserve to enjoy the holidays just as much as everyone else. With a small amount of preparation, you and your co-workers can get into the holiday spirit.

● Do a co-worker gift exchange or Secret Santa event

● Print a few extra family holiday cards and give them to your co-workers

● Ask for an area in the break room for everyone to put holiday cards

● Do a potluck, and have everyone bring their favorite nostalgic holiday dish

● Wear festive scrubs, socks, or holiday decor (headband, badge reel, jacket, etc.)

● Play holiday music in the break room or quietly at the nurse’s station

● Have a holiday movie playing in the break room

● Set up a hot chocolate stand in the break room with a hot chocolate maker, marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint, and chocolates

● Bring small gifts for your co-workers (badge clip, socks, lip gloss, lotion, hand sanitizer, candy, etc.)

● Write thank you cards to co-workers you have appreciated this year, or to your patients if you work in a long-term care setting

Handling the Emotions

As delightful as the holidays can be, it doesn’t come without emotion. Between family drama, processing memories, and weather changes, you aren’t alone if the season is a struggle for you. Don’t give yourself the additional burden of feeling guilty for working holidays as a nurse.

Remember Your Motivation

Try keeping a mantra in mind about why you’re working holidays as a nurse to keep you grounded if negative thoughts creep in.

● “This holiday bonus will help me pay for my daughter’s dance lessons next year”

● “The overtime will be enough to fix our car”

● “If I work this holiday, I can finally have next holiday off for that big family reunion”

● “Working this holiday allows me to keep this job and keep getting my hours”

● “I’m here to help my patients today”

Use Your Motivation

There’s always next year. If after some reflection, you feel that working holidays as a nurse was challenging, use that as motivation to improve your situation for next year. That may mean collaborating with a co-worker to switch a few shifts around, or even getting a new job.

Key Takeaways

Thousands of nurses work holidays, so you aren’t alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your co-workers or other nurses in the community to ask for advice on how they cope with working holidays as a nurse. By setting yourself, your family, and your workplace up for success, the holidays can still be a wonderful time.

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Happy holidays!

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