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Alison Gadsby: Nurses are obliged to take on Christmas shifts

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Working through Christmas shifts is not many nurses' idea of a happy holiday - but spare a thought for the patients

I love Christmas. For me it’s a really special time of year. But it’s not so great for everyone, and part of what makes it tricky for us nurses is the dreaded Christmas rota.

Yes, it’s that time we all look forward to – the desperate negotiations and the heated debate about who has the most valid reason to spend Christmas at home.

I have heard so many nurses' excuses over the years. There’s the old favourite: ‘I worked Christmas 10 years ago so I shouldn’t have to this time.’

There’s the wheeling out of relatives who will be mortally offended if you aren’t around to share their Christmas joy. I’ve seen rotas from the past five years brought out to see the stats on which naughty people always manage to avoid Christmas working.

And who could forget that classic – and my favourite – ‘Just because I have chosen not to have children, why should I and my cat be deprived of spending Christmas day together?’ You could have hours of fun adding to the list.

No one wants to work at Christmas and new year. But, as a nurse, this is what you sign up to. People can be unwell at any time, and it is our job to be there for them.

We do need to share the load and try our best to be fair. After all, it is the season of peace on earth and good will to all, so a bit of self-sacrifice may be the order of the day.

But if you are still feeling hard done by, having worked every Christmas and new year since the NHS began, it may be helpful to remember Christmases past, and how much your patients appreciated you being there. If work is the last place you want to be, imagine how much worse it is for them.

I have good memories of Christmas working, because it is a special time, wherever you end up spending it. While we get caught up in shopping and preparations, the best thing is helping to make it better for those who don’t have a place to go and are separated from friends and family. I’m not being sentimental; it’s a fact.

So, while you may not be looking forward to your shift this Christmas, remember that those in your care will need people like you who are prepared to sacrifice your day to make theirs a bit more bearable.

Remember too that, if you work this Christmas, then a day off next year should be in the bag.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I had christmas day off this year but had to work a 12 hour shift on Boxing day. I left my family behind that morning wishing i was still in bed. That day one of my patients had a cardiac arrest and thanks to the fantastastic team i work with he made it through and went home a week later. I've never felt so glad to work christmas, never thought I'd ever say that
    karen jeavons SSN
    New Cross W-ton

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