Hospitals do not close for the holidays. This means healthcare providers have to spend time away from their families and go to work. I have never minded working holidays. To be completely honest, I consider it a privilege.
When patients are in the hospital on a holiday, it is the last place in the world they want to be. We do not typically schedule elective procedures during those times. The people who have to be admitted usually have no other option.
I do not see any point in refusing to work on a holiday when we celebrate locally. I can go spend a couple of hours with my family or even celebrate another day, it is not a big deal to me. My family will fix me a plate, or even send a huge spread of food for me to share with my coworkers.
Christmas Eve of 2013 I was at work in the MICU. The unit was full and we were slammed when I get a phone call from my mother saying my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews were in a bad car accident outside a small town about two and half hours away. They had been traveling to visit her family. We were not able to get much information about their condition over the phone and my sister-in-law had already been transferred to a larger hospital.
I dropped everything and went to go take care of my family. That drive was so long and I have never been more desperate to get more miles between me and Lubbock, Texas. I had to get to my brother and my nephews. When I finally arrived to the hospital, my nephews were in a hospital room filled with toys. They had been doted on and loved by so many people. Someone had gone and bought them some clothes to change into because theirs were dirty. DPS had brought them teddy bears. I believe it was a nurse’s aide who went and bought them cars and trucks from somewhere. I have never been more grateful. My boys were okay.
Christmas that year was terrible. My brother could barely move and could not see due to his injuries. His wife was in the hospital preparing to have the first of many surgeries. The boys were very stressed out, although physically they were okay. I would have much rather have been able to work that holiday.
My family is okay if I am working. There are no big personal tragedies or crises. I can focus on my work because my family is safe and healthy. If I have to leave work because someone is hurt or sick I am a mess. Work is so much easier. Once the day is over I get to go home and escape whatever nightmares transpired at the hospital.
I can devote a few hours to another person who is having a bad holiday due to their medical condition. I can spend time with a family who is saying goodbye to their loved one on that day. It is the least I can do. I did not lose my family when they had an accident on Christmas Eve. We were lucky.
My role as a healthcare provider is important to me. It is humbling and I am proud of the career I chose. I have worked hard to be able to help people. I sacrifice a lot of time with my family and friends. I work long days and some days it is so hard.
However, I will keep working holidays. I will do my best to provide care to my patients and their families when they really just want to be at home celebrating. It is my way of showing my gratitude for my good fortune.
If you find yourself or your family in the hospital on a holiday, I imagine there are more people who do not resent caring for you. If their family is like mine they will be gracious and understanding of the service we provide in our professional lives. We adapt and adjust our plans so we can be of use. Don’t worry, we are not being left out of the festivities. If we are lucky, we are good friends with our coworkers and they have become extended family anyway. It is the least we can do.