While Christmas is a time of family, fun and feasts, for many, the festive period is filled with long, stressful shifts. Working in the healthcare industry means that the work doesn’t stop as we reach Christmas; instead, the pace picks up, and the wards become busier.

Having specialised in nursing recruitment for many years, we recognise that for those in the medical sector, Christmas can be incredibly overwhelming. However, there are many different ways that you can prepare yourself and make the most out of the situation. Here we run through our top eight tips for nurses working Christmas shifts.

Expert Advice For Nurses Working Christmas Shifts

Of course, nursing jobs come alongside a wealth of unbeatable benefits. The care, patience and love that each nurse show each and every day is exceptional and couldn’t be more appreciated by patients. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy. Especially over the Christmas period when everyone else seems to be relaxing at home with their loved ones, setting off for often a 12-hour shift is never appealing.

If you are approaching a heavy shift schedule and wondering how you can power through the festive period, take a browse through our top tips!

Doctor showing notes to nurses

Celebrate With Your ‘Work’ Family

There is something special about the relationship that you share with colleagues. Particularly when working in a high-pressure, high-paced and high-intensity role, your colleagues are there for you to support you through every emotion. They are there to pick you up on stressful days and praise you on occasions when patients leave the ward happy and healthy. With this in mind, to get into the festive spirit, be sure to arrange a celebration with your ‘work’ family ahead of Christmas. Reward your hard work throughout the year and some time off to unwind before the hectic period kicks in.

When shortlisting Christmas celebration ideas, you will most definitely not be short for inspiration. As it can be somewhat tricky to find an option that everyone will love, why not send out an email ahead of time asking team members to send over activities that they would enjoy. In doing this, you can narrow down which ideas would be best suited to your ward; whether this may be a more relaxed option such as a meal or something a little more unique. Before booking anything, it is vital to keep in mind that, unlike other industry, it is likely to be tricky for all nurses to take an entire evening off. Instead, we suggest picking something that will only require a few hours, yet will be filled with fun. Some popular ideas for festive celebrations include:

  • Ice Skating
  • Trip To The Christmas Panto
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Christmas Wreath Making
  • Bowling
  • Mini Golf

Christmas afternoon tea

Decorate The Ward

If you can’t be at home over the festive period, then why not bring Christmas to the ward? Fill the nurse’s stations, hallways and even patient rooms with colourful decorations and sparkling lights to spread the festive joy and cheer up the ward. Be sure to double-check any safety regulations before starting to decorate to ensure that they do not pose any threats to staff or patients. Avoid placing any items near doorways or walkways to ensure that, in an emergency, there are no obstructions in the way.

If you work on a Children’s ward, then a fantastic way to celebrate the festivities would be to set up a DIY decoration activity. Gather together as many materials that you can get your hands on; whether this may be cardboard, old rubber gloves or plastic cups and challenge patients to create their own Christmas decoration. You could even put a post on social media asking people to donate any old craft materials that they may have, meaning that you’ll be able to set up the activity for free. The decorations can then be used to decorate each patients bed, adding a special touch to their stay. If you’re stuck for inspiration on how to create your own DIY Christmas decor, head over to Nurse Buff.

Arrange Secret Santa

Secret santa is an absolute must when planning festivities in the workplace. When making secret santa arrangements, be sure to let your team know as early as possible and decide on a strict budget to give them plenty of time to find the perfect gift. It is entirely your choice how you choose to organise secret santa. While traditionally, each member would choose a name, and this would be the person they need to buy for, many are now adopting a more modern approach to secret santa.

Instead of buying for a specific person, each nurse will be given the task of finding the best present possible for, for example, £5. On the day that you plan to exchange gifts, ensure that everyone’s presents have been collected and placed into a santa sack. Put each team members name into a hat and choose one name at random. The first person chosen will then have to pick a present from the sack; they can open this straight away. Next, a second name is chosen; they select a gift and open. If they like the present of the player before them more then their own, they can swap theirs. This will keep going until every name has been chosen – you’ll be surprised how many swaps that there will be!

For some great ideas on secret santa gifts for nurses, take a look at Nurse Money Talk. Or for a more personal touch, Etsy has a generous selection of excellent small gifts for nurses. From customised stethoscope tags to engraved pocket watches, you are guaranteed to find the perfect present.

Secret santa gift

Be Extra Prepared

The Christmas period is one of the, if not the busiest, times of the year for every industry, but even more so for those who work in the healthcare sector. To ensure that you can keep stress at a minimum, it is vital to ensure that you remain as prepared as possible for each shift. If you can enter the ward each day relaxed and feeling organised, then it will set you up for a positive shift. This is even more essential if you are tackling a night or 12-hour shift when things become a little more hectic. To keep you prepared for anything that you may be tasked with, we suggest taking a look at our previous article on ten top tips for tackling longer shifts.

When preparing for each shift, try to think of things that will make even the most stressful of days just that little more enjoyable. Perhaps spend time cooking a delicious lunch, pack your favourite snacks for throughout the day or bring along your headphones to catch up on a series on your break. Giving yourself little things to look forward to will lift your mood and help you to power through the festive period.

Remember, You’re In It Together

One of the best aspects of working as a nurse is that you have a whole team of professionals who are in the exact same position as you. The Christmas period is inevitably going to be stressful due to increased patients and decreased staff, which means that there will be bad days. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re all in this together, so should give a helping hand where possible to make the period just that little more manageable. If you have a spare ten minutes, while it may be tempting to take quick sit down, ask around the ward to see whether anyone else could do with an extra pair of hands. People do remember the kindness that you show them, so are likely to repay the favour when you’re in a moment of need.

Nurses talking on lunch break

Spend Time With Patients

When working in a hospital, it’s essential to keep in mind that you’re not the only group of people who would rather be in the comfort of their own home. Patients would love nothing more than going home to their family to enjoy the festivities, so don’t forget to spend time with your patients to ensure that they do not begin to feel lonely.

Once you have treated a patient, perhaps consider spending an extra ten minutes spending time one-on-one with them, getting to know them on a personal level. It gives you peace of mind that your patients are happy, even if they have to spend Christmas cooped up in a hospital bed. Giving patients just that little extra attention will mean more than you could ever imagine, helping to spread the festive cheer throughout the ward.

Nurse talking to little girl

Plan The Festive Period Ahead

Christmas is a busy period for everyone, which means that as soon as you get your rota for the festive period, begin planning your celebrations with friends and family. Just because you are faced with long, busy shifts, it most definitely doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the festivities with your loved ones.

If you are working on the 25th December, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot move your ‘Christmas’ to another day. Speak to your family members and agree on a date where you will have a second Christmas filled with good food and even better company. You could also arrange a selection of themed games to get everyone in the celebratory mood such as the 30 Christmas party games featured on Shutterfly. Perhaps ask whether everyone can save a present for the day so that you can all get together to open gifts. Your loved ones will know that this will be a stressful period for you and working over Christmas is never ideal, so we can promise that they will try to make it as enjoyable as possible for you.

Give Yourself Some Extra TLC

As a nurse, you spend all day, every day caring for patients, but don’t forget to spend time to look after yourself. After each shift, even if it hasn’t been a particularly stressful day, always take a few moments to unwind. In spending time to relax the mind and body, you can let go of any tension that would have built up throughout your shift, so you can start fresh the next day.

There are a plethora of different ways that you can manage stress and stay healthy such as meditation and practising breathing exercises. Our previous article on stress management for nurses includes many different proven methods of unwinding after each shift.

Woman holding hands

Filling The Ward With Festivities

While it is never ideal working over the festive period, it is often inevitable as a professional in the healthcare industry. Those who sacrifice their Christmas to care for patients should always be immensely proud of their commitment to their role and will forever be appreciated by the public. Taking on a nursing position may be stressful, but the rewarding feeling always outweighs the harder days!

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