The Top 10 Ways to Actually Enjoy Working the Holidays

by Angela Brooks

Working Christmas, Hannukah or New Year’s Eve again this year? I feel your pain. It’s hard to be away from family and friends on days that really matter to us. And it’s easy to get bummed about it!

But this year, instead of wishing we were somewhere else and focusing our energies on all that we are missing out on, what if we just embraced that which we couldn’t change and went about ensuring this was the best darned shift we ever served?

How’s that for a challenge?

As someone who’s served plenty of holiday shifts, I know just how hard it can be. So, I want to give you the top 10 ways I’ve found to make working a holiday shift meaningful and fun.

1)      Plan a Potluck with your fellow nurses and have everyone bring a favorite home-cooked holiday dish to share with the group. For extra fun, bring in some non-alcoholic cider or traditional Wassail to drink as well.

 2)      Play your favorite Christmas music and plan a caroling session with your fellow co-workers. It’s tons of fun, the patients and families LOVE it, and you’ll find yourself quickly caught up in the spirit of  the season, in spite of any humbug feelings you might be harboring.

 3)      If you’re working on Christmas, make sure to create a “12 days of Christmas” plan with your family and give each other a small gift on every single day of Christmas, so that each one feels like a special celebration.

 4)      Try your best to arrange to have a gift delivered to your loved ones while you’re at work. Possibly a neighbor or friend can pop by and drop off a special gift for them while you’re gone. This is a nice way to surprise them and you’ll find yourself spending your shift giddy with anticipation for its arrival (and the resulting text or phone message!).

 5)      If you can’t arrange for a surprise gift to be delivered, at least make sure you call your family and wish them a happy holiday from work. Also, call and re-connect with a more distant family member from work. They’ll really appreciate the extra effort you’ve made!

 6)      Dress up in fun, crazy holiday wear. Got some Champagne glass earrings and a Tiara? Wear them for New Year’s Eve! Or guys wear a Top Hat! Even some fun Christmas socks can be enough to lift your mood during your shift. And if your unit will allow, have an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest and see who can wear the most off-the-wall, hideous Christmas sweater, and make sure to take blackmail pictures for later.

 7)      Bring in small homemade gifts for your patients. They can be crafts or dollar store items or something you baked. It really doesn’t matter what it is. Your patients will be thrilled that you went the extra mile and making their day will tend to make yours as well.

 8)      For those of you working New Year’s Eve, arrange for someone to bring in Sparkling cider, someone else to bring in festive hats, glasses, or feather boas, so you can at least have a small celebration at midnight.

 9)      Another way to make New Year’s Eve or Day special is to make a pact with your fellow nurses on that shift to each write down your top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for the next year. Find a quick, quiet moment to gather around and share them with each other. It’s a great group bonding exercise and by publicly sharing your goals, it allows the group to keep you honest when you’re not reaching them and vice versa.

 10)   Finally, if after all this you’re still feeling down about working the holidays, remember a few things:

 ·       You’re making overtime, so that will help you afford gifts.

 ·       You’ve got a stable job in a time when so many would give anything to trade places with you.

 ·       You’re not alone, thousands of other people have to work the holidays too.

 ·       You are in a position to make a huge difference in your patients’ and your patients’ families’ lives on a day that they’d rather be home as well.

 ·       You’re only there for 12 hours, and you get to leave after your shift, your patients don’t.

 ·       So, focus on making their day wonderful, and you may just find that in doing so, yours is too.

Feel free to send in your suggestions for making holiday shifts enjoyable! We’d love to hear them!


Anna Morrison, BSN, RN is the founder of The EntrepreNurse™ Group. Her work empowers Nurses to leverage their clinical experience to create profitable businesses with meaningful impact. She is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller 5 Things They Never Told You in Nursing School. As an inspiring servant-leader, and in-demand speaker & nursing career coach, Anna Morrison has helped hundreds of nurses re-connect to their passion for making a difference in the world, while improving their own lives. She has been featured in The Miami Herald, Good Morning America, Nurse.com, and RNCentral.com. Anna runs the online “I Coach Nurses” blog, where she offers dozens of free resources to fast track your business, get your multiple-streams-of-income-mojo working, and attract clients for life!

Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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