There’s no denying that working in healthcare is rewarding. There will always be a need for healthcare professionals. But this demand also has some drawbacks.
Sickness doesn’t take vacations or holidays, which makes working in healthcare different than the usual 9 – 5 job. Nurses and other healthcare workers are often expected to work a rotating schedule of nights, weekends and even holidays.
Obviously spending holidays away from your family is not ideal, but it’s an unfortunate reality of the profession. Before you turn your back on the idea, we have some insight that might change your mind. We polled the pros to identify some little known benefits of working on a holiday.
6 little known perks of working on a holiday in healthcare
1. Better pay
The most obvious perk of working a holiday shift is better pay. Most medical centers offer overtime pay to their employees during major holidays, according to nurse and nurse attorney Lorie Brown. She says she used to receive double-time for holiday shifts, though the policies will vary from employer to employer.
Some hospitals may offer extra PTO (paid time off) to encourage employees to work on Christmas day. Other forms of incentives and compensation are often available as well, because it’s in a medical center’s best interest to encourage a little bit of holiday cooperation.
2. More intimate atmosphere
“I loved working holidays because patient family members were always there, they brought in great food and patients were generally happier,” Brown says.
Brittany Michelson, RN-BSN, agrees that the whole atmosphere of the medical center tends to feel more jovial. Most people who would go to the doctor on an average day would probably hold off on a holiday if they can. This means the staff has an existing relationship with many of the patients who are still there and everyone can have some fun together, according to Michelson.
3. Increased leverage
Though it isn’t an actual rule, employees who cover important holiday shifts seem to have some extra influence when requesting their own time off. Trauma surgeon Akram Alashari believes that there’s a general feeling that if you work a holiday shift, you should have a little more pull when you are trying to get a shift covered.
“The perception exists that they are more likely to have their request honored if it is known that they will be covering holidays,” Alashari says.
You can especially use this to your advantage if holiday shifts that everyone seems to want off aren’t necessarily as important to you. “I am Jewish, so I loved working Christmas,” Brown says. She enjoyed the opportunity to take Christmas shifts so her colleagues didn’t have to.
4. Less commotion
“Those who tend to work on holidays enjoy the fact that it is usually less busy during those times of the year,” Alashari says. In his experience, people seem to be more reluctant to leave family gatherings to go to the hospital unless it’s of dire need.
Alashari has seen many hospital admissions the day after Thanksgiving with gallbladder attacks and other ramifications of the big meal. In this case, the Thanksgiving shift is probably preferable to being scheduled the day after the holiday.
Brown adds that patients who come in on a holiday are often accompanied by an entourage of family. Those family members tend to lighten the load on the nursing staff by staying with their sick loved ones and helping them perform basic functions like eating and going to the restroom.
5. Holiday food
Brown says she generally received tons of cookies, chocolate and other gifts on her holiday shifts. Patient’s family members often bring treats in to thank the medical staff and make the occasion a bit more festive. Many medical centers also make a point to provide food for employees working the holiday shift.
6. More time to make a difference
“I seem to have more time on a holiday shift to do all the things I wish I usually had time for,” Michelson says. She remembers a particular Christmas she had a patient who had been stuck in the hospital for several weeks. She was able to take him for a walk in his wheelchair to tour the window views of the skyline surrounding the hospital.
It’s easy for hospital staff to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of an average shift and overlook the opportunities to extend extra kindness to their patients. When things tend to slow down a bit – like during a holiday shift – there is some extra room to make patients feel the love and care that prompted you to become a nurse in the first place. Especially on a holiday, when patients may be feeling lonely or out of the loop, nurses have the opportunity to act like family.
And that’s only the holiday shift…
Like any career, nursing has its pros and cons. Working occasional holiday shifts, weekends and night shifts likely fall into your “cons” category, but now you know there are actually some benefits of working on a holiday.
Surviving a holiday shift as a nurse isn't all that bad, and there are many other benefits of nursing that make it all worth it. Learn about some other exciting benefits of being a nurse.