One of the sad facts of nursing life is that you have to work holidays. Most facilities have you work every other holiday, but that can mean that you are on the floor for Christmas. Some nurses don't mind working holidays because patients need them. However, some nurses resent having to work holidays because it takes away from their time with family. Both are valid points, but going into nursing, most people know they are going to have to work days that they would rather not.

Get Flexible

Unfortunately, some family members may not understand your duty to work holidays. This is especially true of children, but spouses and extended family may not understand either. The trick to navigating Christmas when you have to work is getting flexible. Depending on the shift you work, you can find creative times to celebrate the holiday. If you work days, consider opening presents and having a big meal on Christmas Eve. If you work nights, you can have your celebration on Christmas Day morning and then go get some sleep.


One way to celebrate Christmas when you can't be with your family is to decorate your unit. No matter what type of facility you work in, you can bring a festive atmosphere to your environment. Even if you only decorate in the lunchroom, it will still help you and your coworkers remember that it is the season and a time to celebrate. If you can, try to decorate the halls, nurse's station, and entrance hall with Christmas decorations. A tree would be nice, but you can use window clings and tape up streamers. Of course, you should check with your facility to determine their policies on decorating the unit or patient rooms for the holidays. Some places allow for more festive decorations than others, but you should always operate within the facility's policies and procedures.

Plan a Party

Everyone love food. In fact, all healthcare workers love food. If you are working Christmas, you may want to plan a party with a ton of food that you and your coworkers can indulge in during breaks. A few days before Christmas, post a flyer asking people to sign up for the party and to indicate what they will bring. It is like having a potluck Christmas, and you will get to experience the cooking of your coworkers. Some nurses bring in crock pots full of food or trays of cookies. Try and drum up support of the party so you can have fun on your Christmas shift.

Celebrate with Patients and Coworkers

Finally, even if you can't or don't want to indulge in holiday cheer, at least try to celebrate with your patients and coworkers. You don't have to be the force for Christmas fun on your unit, but it is great if you are willing to participate. Even if your facility isn't doing anything or is strict, you can still wish a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to those you come in contact with during the day. Remember: if you are sad about being in a facility during Christmas, your coworkers and patients may be, too.

If it wasn't for the nurses who sacrifice their time and their holiday, those people would not get the care they need. Be mindful of the fact that the people around you may benefit from a good Christmas shift, and you may feel good giving them a happy day despite their circumstances!