The dreaded holiday work schedule… we know the requirement and we remember which “winter holidays” we worked last year, yet there always remains this small glimmer of impossible hope that we will somehow be sprinkled by holiday magic and be able to spend the holidays at home with our families!
It just sometimes doesn’t seem fair working the holidays when most people have off. But nurses are not “most people.” Nurses are a special group of caring people that give up their time and energy – every day, not just on holidays – to care for their patients. Nurses realize that as much as we do not want to work during the holidays, it is our patients that suffer the most. So, we make the best of it and we face the music and accept the fact that the hospital does not close even though the calendar may say it’s a holiday. Perhaps we plan a celebration with our “work family” or try and help each other with small shift changes so a young mom can make it home in time to tuck in her kids. One thing that doesn’t change is that we give extra special care to not only the patient, but their family at the bedside.
Working in labor and delivery I was in the special, sacred part of the hospital where patients were usually happy to be in the hospital! Though working the holiday shifts were still not favorable, there was always extra energy on the floor waiting for a holiday baby to be born! There is one special patient I remember well while working a 12-hour night shift on Christmas Eve. It was my 3rd
shift in a row and the unit wasn’t particularly busy, but steady. I was caring for a young mom who came in to the hospital in early labor in the middle of the night. I thought it was going to be an easy night of early labor and I would be home with by family by 0800. I got this mom settled into her room and couldn’t help but notice that she didn’t have anyone with her. I asked her a plethora of admission questions and nonchalantly asked who her support person would be. She stoically responded that she was going to labor by herself and didn’t need anyone to “support” her; but the tear in her eye and the shaking of her hands caught my eye…and my heart.
I got to talking to this brave yet broken young mom only to find out she was not only newly married but new to the country. She and her husband had traveled across the world, leaving family behind, to start a better life for themselves. However, only days after finding out they were expecting, the husband suddenly passed away. This young mom was all alone, on Christmas Eve, having a baby.
Earlier I had been complaining that I was missing my family dinner, but knowing I would make the family breakfast and knowing I had a house full of friends and family waiting to see me. This young mom did not complain, instead told me of all the things for which she was happy, especially the healthy baby she was about to welcome to the world, all by herself. I remember this moment as if it were yesterday, her maturity, her grace, her gratefulness…all still remain with me. It is this patient that changed me. This young woman made me a better person, a better nurse. I stayed the night by her side and helped her ride the highs and lows of labor. My shift came to an end, but my time with her did not. She gracefully welcomed a beautiful baby girl, named Noelle, in the late morning of Christmas day. I chose to stay after my shift not because she needed me, but because I needed her.
Working holiday shifts can be challenging and not ideal; however in the season of giving, nurses have a special and unique opportunity to give of themselves to their patients. And when you least expect it, you may just be given the greatest gift in return.