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7 Tips for Working through the Holidays as a Nurse

7 Tips for Working through the Holidays as a Nurse

Working through the holidays as a nurse is somewhat expected - and while probably not every single year -  you’re definitely going to get your fair share of holiday shifts. Whether this is a blessing (say if you’re not a holiday fan) or a curse (for example, if you have kids), working over the holidays, whether you love it or hate it, has an impact.

If you tend to love the holiday season, or just the extra time off, and are feeling less than excited to throw on your scrubs while everyone one else is drinking eggnog, rest assured that thanks to 2020 you probably won’t be missing out on much anyways - so why not earn a few extra bucks and give help where help is needed?

Whatever your reasons for working this year (maybe you don’t have a choice not to) if you’re less than thrilled, we want to remind you it’s the season of giving and your role is important.

Being mindful of your job and the importance of the care that you give. Don’t think about what you’re missing out on but instead how you can make working through the holidays a bit better for everyone around you.  

So, if your holiday shifts rolls around and there’s somewhere else you’d rather be, keep these 7 tips in mind to stay on track and feel good: 

1. Think of Your Holiday Pay

If you’re working over the holidays and find yourself bummed out because you're missing all the holiday fun - think about the money. While you might find working over the holidays a drag for your social life - it’ll be quite abundant for your wallet.

Not only will you spend less money on gift exchanges and dining out but you’ll likely be paid anywhere from time and a half to double time for any stat holiday you work (depending on your employer and what province you’re in).  

So, as you're heading in for your night shift - or waking up early on Christmas morning to put on your scrubs - don’t think about what you’re missing out on but instead of what you’ll be earning. 

2. Improve the Experience for Your Patients 

While it may be difficult to work over the holidays - especially if you have children, are close to your family and friends, or typically have fun holiday plans - try to keep in mind how much worse it’d be if you were the patient stuck in the hospital. Remembering your role and upping your bedside manner can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Put your empathy shoes on and work with your patient to make them feel safe, secure and well looked after. Your job is caring for them when they really need your help and just by tapping into your mission you can help spread some holiday cheer. 

3. Plan Ahead

Working over the holidays as a nurse doesn’t have to be so bad if you plan ahead and know your holiday schedule. That way your family and friends know when you're available and might be able to shift some holiday fun - or at least some of your favourite events (like Aunt Kathy’s ugly Christmas party).

In general though, since 2020 is a very different year in comparison to past years (as most gatherings will be limited to just a few people) even letting the people in your bubble know - like your partner or roommate - when you’re working and when you’re not can help organize some holiday fun.

For example plan a Christmas movie marathon on a day off - do some Christmas baking or create some home-made holiday cards you can mail out to the loved ones you won’t be seeing this year.

4. Make Your Holiday Shifts Festive 

Working over the holidays doesn’t mean you’re alone - you have your colleagues and patients who are all in the exact same boat as you. So while there’s work to be done - get creative and make it fun!

Decorate the halls and ask patients if they want decorations in their room too. Plan a Secret Santa with colleagues or organize some gifts for your patients. Have a Holiday bake-off where your colleagues bring in baked goods and you all vote on the best one! If you’re working the night shift on New Year’s Eve maybe you can bring in some party hats or apple juice as a stand-in for champagne!

Whatever is the best part of the Holidays for you - try to bring some of that into your workplace. Don’t just focus on yourself though - ask your colleagues and patients what some of their favourite traditions are and adapt all of them together to make for a friendlier/more cheerful vibe. 

Not only will it help lift your own spirits but it can be fun to see all the different traditions from your colleagues and patients who are sharing the holiday with you. 

5. Order Take out, Take Photos & Bond with Colleagues 

Remember, you’re not going to be the only ones working over the holidays, you have your colleagues and patients alongside with you. Hopefully, in there you have a work-wife or a work-husband or at least some colleagues or even patients you get along with. 

Use this time to bond with the ones you treasure and do things you normally might not - like ordering take-out from somewhere you love, or that you haven’t tried yet, so you have something to look forward to during your shift.

Another great way to spread joy across the unit is taking photos. Take photos of you and your patients (if they’re okay with it) and take photos of you and your colleagues. While colleagues aren't your family - sometimes they act as your second family and since we spend so much of our lives at work - we should embrace our second ‘work’ family and create some memories. 

If you’re not that close with your unit, join our group and connect with other Canadian nurses and send selfies in the group to connect with everyone else working over the holidays.

6. Treat Yourself

Possibly one of the greatest reasons to treat yourself this holiday season is if yes - you’re working this holiday season! Knowing you’re helping others and being a team player won’t leave you feeling selfish if your online gifts are being shipped directly to you (nor will you be worried about the expense - because - holiday pay)!

Whether it’s something nurse related or just something unnecessary that you have been eyeing for awhile, now is the time to treat yourself to it and remind yourself that you deserve it - it’s been a rough year.

And if buying a few things for yourself doesn’t spark your joy then remember to take care of yourself. If you like bubble baths - take more. If you enjoy Holiday movies - watch them all. If you just want to finish your shift - order takeout and enjoy wine with you cat - do that!

Whatever relaxes you the most, whether it’s a beer, a face mask, or yoga, make sure you’re indulging in it whenever you can over the holidays. 

7. Cut Holiday Corners

Working over the holidays as a nurse means you get to cut holiday corners. What exactly does that mean? It means - you have the excuse of working to really not spend time on the things you may not enjoy - like:

  • Baking/cooking: instead buy it from a local shop and help support local bakeries. 
  • Decorating: if you don’t love it - leave it, or get someone else at your home to do it.
  • Buying gifts/spending money: You’ll likely be missing out on some events which means you shouldn’t worry about giving gifts. And if you do - cut corners and give gift receipts or shop online and do it all in one afternoon with a glass of wine or your favourite cup of tea. 

Whatever you don’t love about the holidays - large family dinners, buying too many gifts or drinking/eating too much - rest assured that by working through the holidays you can truly compromise in any areas you want to.  


At the end of the day, all you need to do is focus on the positive. It’s the season of giving and as a nurse you have a miraculous gift to help. 

If you’re a holiday junkie then bring that spirit to your workplace and brighten the spirits of all your colleagues and patients by decorating, baking, ordering delicious food and gift-giving. If you’re more of a scrooge and hate holiday vibes then don’t forget about self-care and taking time for yourself after a long shift. Find the things that relax you and make sure you do them more than you normally would outside of the holiday season.

And lastly, routine is boring, if you work this year, you’ll likely not work the next, so don’t worry about anything you miss, it will only make you appreciate it that much more when you can attend. And, let’s be honest, it being 2020 and all, you really won’t be missing out on much, so save that extra cash and splurge on a vacation or something nice when this is all over. 

Stay Safe and let us know how you’re spending this holiday season.