Christmas Season: Celebrate with Family vs Working that Nursing ShiftI needed to be in two places at once. That’s not exactly true... I thought I was needed in more than one place. Emotionally torn between needing to work Christmas Eve night shift, I was yearning to share that moment in time with my two-year-old daughter.

Work and Life Balance

Feelings of guilt fought inside my head and heart. If I tell my supervisor I cannot work the holiday because I had waited for that moment to share with my little favorite person, then someone else would be required to spend a holiday away from their loved ones. At the same time, I had rehearsed how the excited eyes of a two-year-old would see the wonder of a holiday I grew up relishing. 

No doubt many nurses feel pulled between multiple responsibilities. Holidays are not just obligations, but expectations accentuate those desires. Work versus home, the conflict that comes with an occupation where staff must cover every minute of each day.

Then it occurred to me. My expectations of my daughter’s holiday joy were in fact, mine. She was too little to have any expectations. Further, she was so young, she would never remember this moment no matter how detailed I planned her every activity. I was grieving my perception of the holiday, my potential memory-making moment. How would she ever feel about me working, when she was not yet capable of remembering daily routines yet?

Giving the Best Christmas Gift

This took my thoughts back to my first year as a nurse. When the holiday schedule came out, I was elated. At first, anyway, I thought it was an ideal schedule. I had been working the midnight shift and was scheduled to work the night of Christmas Day. The key time to the whole wish list of who gets what time off... I won! The night of Christmas Eve I was scheduled to be off. The envy of the rest of the staff, or at least those scheduled to work that night. 

But then I listened to them. My coworkers with children had hoped to be off that night so they could be home in the early hours of Christmas day. They had counted on watching the eyes of their children as they unwrapped presents, wondered how it all happened, and just sat with family treasuring the time. I did not have a family yet. My expectations for that shift were not even close to their plans.

I went up to one of the nurses who had voiced their disappointment and offered to change shifts with her. She could have Christmas Eve off, then work for me the next night. I still recall the look in her eyes. Possibly her favorite Christmas present came in the form of favor. The gift I received was more special than having the night off. Seeing the joy in my coworker’s expression was worth more than words can ever express.

Now, considering my options, I could have any date be the moment my holiday expectations are fulfilled with my little daughter. I could work a night when others need to be with their families, then schedule a night, convenient for me, to cherish with the most special person in my life. I still own those memories.

Yes, the work versus family time can collide for nurses. However, finding realistic options can provide holiday memories beyond what you may have already hoped to celebrate.