Achieving Work-Life Balance During the Holidays

Halloween is over and the holidays are rapidly approaching. In addition to the normal wear and tear of the stress the holidays inflict, for nurses you can double the effects. Sick people don’t take holidays and can be even more demanding and challenging this time of the year.

As first responders, you know the drill. If you’re lucky to have seniority and a well-staffed company, you might be able to pull rank and get some extra time off. However, for the majority this will not be the case. Overtime is plentiful and often mandatory for the holidays.

Illness Doesn’t Take a Holiday

For nurses, there are hospitals, facilities and home health or hospice agencies to staff 24/7 and the holidays are no exception. No matter how fair and equitable management tries to be, the best laid plans will be in turmoil when someone calls in sick or quits at the most inopportune time. Even though you drew names and assigned holidays in July, by November things can be radically altered.

Nurse-to-patient ratios will sometimes be bent to meet the needs of patients this time of year. Or alternative solutions are put into play such as holds in ER overflow areas, discharging those who can be taught self-care, and declining new ER patients. It’s a stressful time for all to say the least. Nurses who are well organized and able to stay ahwork-life balanceead of the game for their personal lives will be better suited to survive the professional situation unscathed.

Seasonal Rise in Census

There is often an increase in census in hospitals and for home health and hospice agencies during the holidays. The chronically ill can be adversely afflicted by too many sweets, high calorie and high fat foods, as well as a general increase in germs from exposure to crowds and individuals they aren’t usually around. Traveling and unfamiliar territory can add risk for falls and other injuries. The stress of being too close with family members can overwhelm anyone. Emergency calls to first responders will increase this time of year as well so paramedics are familiar with the situation.

Seeking Care and Compassion

Patients are never at their best when they don’t feel well and the holidays just compound this. Depression and loneliness often set in and people yearn for care and compassion. Sometimes the only place they get that is from their favorite nurses or familiar EMT teams frequently called to their homes. Anxiety levels go through the roof for family members having to cope with an unexpected illness on top of all the festivities. Nurses having to hold hands and care for patients are guaranteed to become cranky too.

Avoiding Burnout is Vital

Nurses are high achievers and can often cope quite well. However, the holidays are a time when it is most important to avoid caregiver fatigue and burnout. Taking time to zone out, relax, replenish and focus on themselves is vital not only to emotional health but physical as well. Standard precautions cannot be tossed aside just because “there is no time.” Germs are plentiful and actively hunting for a host. Stress and anxiety breakdown the immune system of even the healthiest humans and an illness can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

Nurses may also have to contend with their own families and friends who simply cannot comprehend that nurses have to work during the holidays. No, it’s not fair, but it’s a fact that nurses have to deal with. Being a nurse is a priority, and holidays are just days. Achieving work-life balance is a process and learning to manage the holidays comes with experience.