The Holiday Stresses of Working in a Hospital

Just about everyone thinks that holidays are stressful. But not everyone faces the additional stress of working in a hospital.

Nurses, physicians, paramedics and other healthcare workers go into their profession knowing it demands a 24/7, year-round commitment. But when it comes to holidays, it’s difficult when you find yourself hard at work at the hospital when others are opening presents and celebrating with family and friends.

Add to that the increased traffic and fewer hospital resources available during the holidays. Much like working nights or weekends, working during holidays can be more hectic since ancillary resources throughout the hospital are more limited. Plus the holiday season creates more accidents due to alcohol, icy falls, depression, loneliness and other seasonal ailments that increase the number of patients coming in.

There’s also the extra strain of providing care to patients and families on the worst day of their lives – one they may always associate with the holidays. Emotions can be intensified by the sense of injustice that a loved one is seriously ill or has died on a holiday. While having to be away from their own families, health care workers often need to help hurting families through these difficult emotional struggles.

Then there are the patients without family nearby who have to be hospitalized over the holidays. Some may not have any family at all, and they may come to see their health care workers as their substitute family. Giving more to these patients is what is needed, but it can still mean extra effort (and stress).

Our Holiday Gift: Tips For Coping

First, face facts. You’ll be working during the holidays. Complaining only makes it more frustrating and stressful. Plus it’s not pleasant for your team and family. Instead, embrace your work and know that what you do is extremely valuable.

Enjoy the benefits. Actually, there are more than you think. The bonus pay that many facilities offer for working holidays can really add up, especially if you decide to work consecutive shifts. Offering to work holidays creates goodwill, and sends a clear message to management that you go the extra mile. Plus working holidays gives you more opportunities for growth. With fewer ancillary resources and a faster pace, situations may arise that allow you to showcase your critical thinking skills, problem solving, and leadership abilities.

Plan ahead. Start decorating, shopping and cooking well ahead of time. That lets you spend more time with your family without being worn out and out of sorts. Also, learn to say no to extra holiday responsibilities.

Get creative. Start some new traditions that accommodate hospital work: a funny gift swap with co-workers, a “worst holiday sweater” contest, or a party to celebrate with your team. Get creative with your family, too. One hospital professional convinced the kids that Santa would be making a special return trip to them the day after Christmas – so the family could celebrate together. Another creative workaround is to have Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. Being flexible can work wonders.

Check your outlook. Whether you approach holiday work as the greatest gift you can give to others or a complete burden depends on your mindset. Being pressured to work or finding out at the last minute that you have to work is definitely tough. But making the best of the situation is the healthiest approach. It helps knowing that you have the unique privilege of bringing care and joy to your patients during a very difficult time.

Focus on compassion. While you may be dealing with your own desire to be home with your family, remember that your patients would love to be home with theirs. In addition, they’re struggling with the illness or injury that keeps them in the hospital. You get to go home at the end of your shift.

Compassion for your own feelings and the feelings of others is vital. Everyone is different. One person may have cozy, warm feelings surrounding the holidays. For another, the holidays might be a nightmare. It’s not easy to know what the season may trigger emotionally for any individual.

The universal gifts we can give to others are kindness, compassion, a little extra patience, and a caring heart. We can stay aware of what others may be experiencing, ask thoughtful questions, and listen with an open heart and mind. It’s the true spirit of the holidays in action – and it’s what people who work in a hospital are in the unique position to give.

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COPY-03557 11/13/2019