Once upon a time in 2002, an animated holiday musical called “Eight Crazy Nights” was released. The movie, co-written by and starring Adam Sandler, took a humorous look at the gift-giving differences between Chanukah and Christmas. One of the musical numbers in the film contained the lyric, “Instead of one day of presents; we get eight crazy nights!” For nurses who work through the holiday season, eight crazy nights is putting it mildly. Each year at this time, it seems that the chaos and craziness are turned up a notch making each eight-hour shift seem like twelve. Here is a list of eight crazy things about being a nurse at the holidays.
Working Around the Decorations. More so in longer term care units, but in other areas as well, patient’s families and friends do their utmost to bring some holiday cheer to their recuperating loved one. Instead of the typical dance around pots of flowers and sneezing at the odiferous Orchids, now one is expected to navigate the strands of tinsel that keep showing up on the IV rack and strings of lights that stretch from the base of the bed to the TV overhead. Since no one wants to be a Nurse Ratched at this time of year, it is best to grin and bear it with a smile.
Being Stuffed. The holidays turn every hospital into “Crockpotville, ” and the staff usually bears the brunt of all that food. It’s hard to stay awake sometimes on a full stomach, let alone racing around the floor with your belly bursting from creamy broccoli soup, slow cooker mac and cheese, or crockpot BBQ pulled pork. Delicious yes, but you will have to loosen the waistline of your scrubs after the season.
Dealing With Stress. The holidays can be a stressful time for anybody, with the shopping and traffic and unruly children bursting at the seams with anticipation. The stress is magnified for families who are also dealing with having a loved one in the hospital at this time of year. Nurses have a front row seat for all of that anxiety, and if care is not taken, they can find themselves feeling the effects of the added stress around them. Being aware of the signs of stress in others and also in yourself can help with proactively finding ways to cope.
Managing Family Time. Because nurses are often working at the holidays, it often becomes a challenge to manage family obligations during the month of December. Many nursing professionals make an effort to “rearrange” their family celebrations to better accommodate their schedule at the hospital. Making the family time about the gathering and spending time together and not the day or days you do it on can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety.
Spreading Cheer for 12 Hours. Most nurses chose their profession because of an innate desire to help others in need. They work long hours and odd schedules and are always expected to be cheerful. During the holidays, the nurse is sometimes the only source of holiday cheer for the patient who doesn’t have an attentive family or their loved ones live far away. A twelve-hour shift is a long time to be humming Christmas carols or chatting with your patient about the joyous season to help them keep their spirits up. It isn’t always easy, but it’s what we do.
Last Minute Holiday Gifts. Anyone who has spent more than a few years working in a hospital around the holidays can tell you a story about the staff pulling together to come up with a last-minute holiday gift. In the midst of all of your other duties, there is always time to make or buy a small present or two for that patient who is spending the holidays alone. Whether it is a small Christmas tree made from inflated, colored gloves or a bottle of scented soap, your act of kindness is sure to be a holiday hit.
Getting Talked Into Caroling. We’ve all been there, the dreaded invitation to join in the festivities when the staff sings holiday songs for the patients in the unit. While it is true that your patients will love the performance (no matter how bad it is), that doesn’t mean you are comfortable singing outside of your own shower. After all, hasn’t everyone witnessed those contestants on American Idol that think they can sing, but in reality can’t? No one wants to be that person.
It’s the Season for a Reason. The craziest thing that nurses will find about working through the holidays is just how wonderful it can be when done right. No matter the stress, the crockpots, the songs, or anything else that goes along with it, nurses who work around the holidays are the true spirit of the season. Your patients don’t think about how you are away from your family too; they only know that you are there for them when they call and always have a smile and a reassuring touch. When you gather with your co-workers and sing (butcher) a holiday classic, they are going to smile and thank you for making their holiday more joyful. When you are called upon to work next holiday season again, don’t think of it as having drawn the short straw. Instead, realize that you are just like Clarence and are earning your wings by helping a bunch of George Baileys who find themselves in circumstances, not of their choosing.
Have you worked through the holiday season? Please share your craziest holiday stories from the hospital in the comment section below. You can also visit us on our Facebook page and tell us what you do to make the most of working the holidays.