While Christmas means an automatic day off for most professionals, the same can’t be said for many doctors. After all, injuries and illnesses don’t abide by a calendar and hospitals are open 365 days a year. But just because you’d rather be at home with your family and friends doesn’t mean Christmas is ruined if you get stuck at the hospital this December 25th. In fact, many doctors of Christmas pasts attest to the upsides of working on Christmas.
Read on for a roundup of reasons why taking a holiday shift can help you embrace the spirit of the season.
1. The environment can actually be “quite jolly.”
While the words “hospital” and “jolly” aren’t usually used together, things can feel a bit different at Christmastime when you introduce everything from holiday parties to surgeons dressed as Santa.
Plus, as Dr. Nick Edwards told The Daily Mail of his working-on-Christmas experiences, “Unless the condition's threatening, patients and relatives are usually in good spirits and very appreciative – over the years I've received a few gifts, usually a jumper or tie which, guessing by the fluffy reindeer motif, were rejected gifts from earlier in the day….And the Christmas injuries, well sometimes, you have to laugh.”
2. You’ll end up with some good stories.
And speaking of Christmas injuries, they run the gamut, including everything from various forms of overindulgence to toy-related injuries, Dr. David Caldicott told ABC News --- many of which will make great stories to share next year when you’re home sipping eggnog and snacking on gingerbread.
But it’s not all fun and games. Case in point? Heart-related deaths spike by five percent during the holiday season, peaking on Christmas Day, according to the University of California San Francisco. Following his first holiday shift, Dr. Hans Zuckerman told Physicians News, “For the most part, working Christmas is just another day in the hospital. We’re all quite aware it’s a holiday, and we do have some lighter moments on those days, but you learn quickly that you’re there for a reason.”
Nor is it all mundane. Did we happen to mention the Christmas miracles?
3. Your presence matters -- even more than usual.
Sure, doctors save lives every day. But they may save them in a different and more meaningful way on Christmas.
Recounts Dr. John Henning Schumann to NPR, “I remember lamenting my first December having to work straight through. A wise mentor helped me reframe my self-pity. ‘It's a privilege to work on Christmas,’ he told me. ‘Our patients count on us. You may not want to be in the hospital, but think of what they're going through.’ He smiled, as if he were welcoming me to a special club, one that I wasn't wholeheartedly ready to join. ‘Your mere presence helps reduce each patient's sense of loss.’
4. You may earn more.
In 2015, The Independent reported that one doctor earned £3,258 for a single shift at Christmas time, while many others earned more than £2,000. Explained Dr. Clifford Mann at the time, “It means hospitals are desperate to try to find people to fill these slots and are having to pay premium rates for that to happen.” While this may be an extreme example, the reality is that because doctors are in such great demand over Christmas break, agreeing to pick up an extra shift or two may make it much easier to pay off your post-Christmas shopping credit card bill next month.
5. Your coworkers will appreciate you.
There’s no getting around the fact that hospitals need doctors at Christmas so those who step up to do so are likely to earn the gratitude of their coworkers.
But agreeing to switch shifts with someone else -- particularly if being off on Christmas just isn’t that important to you as it is to other people-- isn’t just a kind thing to do, it may also be a strategic maneuver: If you ever need someone to trade with you, you’ll be glad you’ve got “money in the bank.”
We’ve told you a lot about what it’s like to work in the hospital on Christmas. But why not see for yourself courtesy of the NHS’s #NHSWorkingXmas hashtag? From a Christmas Eve photo of midwives on the labor ward to a heartfelt tweet proclaiming, “I wouldn’t be alive today without you,” this viral Twitter campaign offers a compelling glimpse inside the lives of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals working holiday shifts.
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