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Cope with Working the Holidays in Health Care

Cope with Working the Holidays in Health Care

Megan Malugani / Monster Contributing Writer

Are you a healthcare professional who’s feeling anything but merry about working yet another holiday shift? Healthcare veterans offer tips on how to banish your inner Grinch and make the most of another holiday on the job.

Plan Ahead

Healthcare professionals say one of the worst aspects of working a holiday is missing family events. Diane Speranza, RN, a certified emergency nurse at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs, Florida, plans holiday gatherings with extended family members, many of whom also work in healthcare or in law enforcement and have similar scheduling challenges, several months in advance. “We very rarely celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day,” she says. “A holiday is whenever a family can be together.”

Invite Loved Ones to Work

Some healthcare employers allow their employees to invite guests for short visits during holiday shifts. “The best years have been when it’s slow enough to actually have families come in,” says Connie Meyer, a paramedic captain for Johnson County Med-Act in Olathe, Kansas.

Meyer, who always works 24-hour shifts with the same crew, finds ways to make the best of holiday shifts that are too busy for visitors. “At work, it’s just a different family we’re spending our time with,” she says.

Brace Yourself for the Emotional Toll

Caring for lonely, sick patients on holidays can be especially wrenching, Meyer says. Responding to a cardiac arrest during a family dinner, for example, is particularly tough. “On a holiday, you have to be flexible and expect that extra emotion to come into your calls,” she says.

What's Your Winter Holiday IQ?

1. Why do we hang wreaths?

To protect against vampires
To welcome guests
To make our homes smell nice

In the ER on holidays, Speranza prefers a steady stream of patients to a trickle — but dreads severe trauma cases. “If it’s slow in the ER, time drags, and you start thinking about being there and working on the holiday,” she says. “If you’re kept busy, the next thing you know, the day is over.”

Empathize with Your Patients

Year-round, Speranza gives her youngest patients little presents to make their ER experience easier. During the holiday season, she wraps them to look like holiday gifts. Even if you don’t make similar holiday-related gestures, you should at least hide your grouchiness from patients, Speranza advises. “If you’re going to be down and grumpy and have a bad attitude, that will affect your patient care and the attitude of the patient as well,” she says. “Think of it as, ‘these people don’t want to be here either.’”

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