We like to think of the holidays as a time of year when we all take time out from our busy schedules to recharge our batteries, spend time with friends and family, and reflect on the year that’s been. Although Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are statutory holidays, and many workplaces may shut down for several weeks in observance of them, not everyone gets that time off. Some, in fact, work right through the holiday season.
The travel industry definitely doesn’t take Christmas off. If you work for a hotel or an airline, this is one of the busiest times of the year. Likewise, if you drive a tow truck or a snow plow. Even if you have a day off, it’s very possible you’re on call. Emergency service workers like police, firefighters and paramedics are in the same boat.
The need never goes away
Healthcare in general is an industry that does not really take a holiday. Though certainly most doctor’s offices don’t book appointments through the festive season, many after-hours clinics remain open. Beyond that, there are tens of thousands of healthcare workers employed in hospitals, long-term care facilities and out in the community providing in-home support, and unfortunately, the need for those services doesn’t go away during the holidays. In fact, because family doctors are off, hospitals can see an increase of up to 30% in the number of visitors over the holidays.
Mental health services are also needed during the holiday season. Although the myth that suicides spike during the holidays has been proven wrong, and in fact suicide rates are lowest in December, the fact remains that Canadians can and do suffer mental health crises during the holidays, and mental health workers are no more likely to get Christmas off than anyone else in the health sector.
Doctors, nurses, paramedics, crisis counselors and other health workers who do have to work during the holidays don’t necessarily love it, especially when they first start out in the industry. Most of them would tell you that they would rather be home with their families, attending holiday parties with friends or just enjoying quiet time.
There is an up side to holiday work
Working through the holidays is not a total loss. It’s quite common for families with healthcare workers in their ranks to plan their holiday get-togethers around the schedules of those members of the family who don’t always get the same days off as everyone else. That said, it can still be a burden on those who have to work when it seems the whole world is at play.
Those who do have to work through the major holidays do get something out of it. Aside from getting overtime pay, working the holidays is an opportunity for healthcare workers to get some perspective. The fact is that if you’re working in a hospital emergency room on Christmas Day, the patients that come through are likely just as disappointed at how their holiday has turned out. Doctors, nurses and other support staff can take some satisfaction in providing comfort and care to people who may be facing much bigger problems than missing a party.
Healthcare workers say that working on a major holiday is in some ways the best time to work, because everyone, from co-workers to patients and their loved ones. tends to be more appreciative and kinder. Generally, everyone is just a little bit nicer to one another, and that’s not a bad thing.
Although the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy is closed on statutory holidays like Christmas and Boxing Day, our pharmacists are always available 24/7 if a patient has an urgent concern or question about their medication. We know that our patients’ chronic conditions don’t take holidays.
A little appreciation goes a long way
It’s a known fact that when you enter the healthcare industry it’s not a 9-to-5 job – it’s a calling. Most healthcare workers choose this work because they want to serve their fellow Canadians and usually know patients don’t choose when to be sick, yet they need care nevertheless.
Still, working through the holidays is a sacrifice. One that most healthcare workers make willingly, but a sacrifice no less. The doctor that is performing emergency surgery on Christmas morning has kids at home, asking why Mommy can’t be there to open presents. The nurse that’s making sure a Parkinson’s patient gets their meds on time on New Year’s Day had to turn down an offer to dance the night away the previous evening. This holiday season, let’s take a moment to appreciate these healthcare heroes, and if you happen upon one, let them know their sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed.