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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

5 Tips For Handling Holiday Scheduling Stress

Published December 10, 2010 11:55 AM by test test
The holiday season is upon us. What does this bring for the average respiratory therapist? Most likely the 12 days of the holiday season brings something close to the following:
  1. the beginning of the busy, pneumonia-filled winter season;
  2. the stress of the beginning of flu season;
  3. skyrocketing patient volume to be cared for with reduced staff;
  4. increased staff attrition due to illness and associated illnesses of children or other family members;
  5. scheduling dilemmas related to the time-off "pecking order";
  6. the injustices of holiday coverage. The least tenured folks end up with the holiday(s) that everybody wants to have off;
  7. backordered or missing supply orders due to holiday closures of suppliers and shippers;
  8. missed holiday meals (and leftovers);
  9. missing the holiday morning joy in your home;
  10. additional, passed down stress originating from the hospital staff who have the similar stressors within the other departments;
  11. possibly the beginnings of bad weather commuting; and
  12. the workday time investment preventing the completion of our myriad holiday tasks.

And the list goes on ... No wonder many of us want to say "bah humbug." How do we handle these stresses and not have it impact our home life, but also the quality of our work? It's more difficult than usual.

One of the biggest hassles is scheduling. Who will work the holidays? Who will work New Year's Day when partying the night before takes priority? What can one do?

Having been on both sides of the fence when it comes to holidays, here are a few pointers:

Use give and take. If you are a party animal and have your New Year's Eve dress already, offer to work the ho-ho holiday. Vice-versa as well. If you are not particularly religious, offer to work holidays.

Think ahead. If you don't have young children who still experience the joy of gift opening, offer to work at least part of the day for someone who does have little ones. This person will repay you when there's a day you'd like to take off for a special event.

Split the day. Again, someone with young children would love the early morning off while someone with older children who sleep in would love to be off at 11 am. Use creative scheduling. Come up with a creative scheduling plan and present it to peers and administration.

Negotiate. I have a son who works nights as an RN. He rearranges his schedule and makes concessions for administration when they need him to do so. But his negotiation is not to work Sunday nights so he can watch his beloved football game. Everybody has a weakness. Find someone else's and capitalize on it. Work a less-than-desirable shift for administration with the understanding that the administration will also concede.

Take one for the team. And don't whine. Few individuals want to work Christmas and other holidays. If there are no other options, "take your turn." Work with your family on making adjustments to the standard "holiday schedule."

My children and their spouses are all healthcare practitioners. We celebrate holidays on the strangest schedules, in the strangest ways. Christmas this year may be in a hotel suite near where my son-in-law is doing a trauma rotation. This flexibility keeps the family guessing and keeps us cemented as a family. Everybody makes concessions to be together as a group. Most often it is lack of sleep on someone's part, but that person does so readily.

Remember, holidays are stressful for everyone. Working in healthcare provides us with few options for schedule changes and re-arranging. Work with your close friends, family, partners and significant others to come up with a scheme that will accommodate you as a professional.

One of the reasons for the season is to mesh and get together with family. It's not the day but rather the way that we approach it that promotes the real spirit of the holiday. Try to be the team player at work and present everyone with holiday greetings. Everybody is in the "same boat." Work hard, work smart and work together to make this holiday season a successful, productive, joyous one.

Guest blogger Sheryl Whitlock, MA, MT(ASCP)BB, wrote these holiday scheduling tips for her blog "Tech Treks."


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