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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Working PRN Over the Holidays: It’s a good thing!

Published November 10, 2014 9:57 AM by Debra Karplus
How quickly the holiday season comes each year.  No matter how well-organized we feel, there's always so much to do, whether you stay in town or not, and whether your family is large or small.  But our jobs as occupational therapy practitioners are year round jobs and our work is not seasonal like in certain other work arenas.

Statistics consistently show higher rates of depression over the holiday season.  Days are dark for more hours.  And the anticipated joyfulness of families being together sometimes just falls short.  Perhaps you feel sadness over the holidays.  But how might some of your patients feel?

In the old days, when I was a new OT, occupational therapy and the other allied health professions strictly followed a Monday through Friday, eight to five work schedule.  But with Medicare and other payers of medical services setting very specific guidelines for the duration and frequency of our treatments and urgency to complete our initial evaluations for our new patients, people working as OTs can expect to work virtually any day of the week, especially those employed in hospitals or skilled nursing settings.

I have worked many times on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter.   On the one hand, it's just another day, orders to evaluate or treat come in, patients are seen, and nursing staff is present.  But clearly, there are a smaller number of people working on holidays in these medical settings.

But from a patient's point of view, being somewhere other than home over the holidays, and especially over Christmas, cannot possibly be a happy event.  Many of the celebrations at these facilities actually occur before the holiday so that staff can be home with their families.  Some of our patients have families in town who come to visit them and celebrate at the hospital or nursing home, but the majority do not.

So what can you, the occupational therapy practitioner, do to make the holiday season less lonely for our patients in hospitals or nursing homes?  If you have the opportunity to work PRN on any of the holidays, even if only for part of a day, try to say "yes".  For example, if you are not the person cooking Christmas dinner or hosting visitors at your home, work the early shift, do your ADL training in the morning, followed by your therapy treatments, and then you can still enjoy the rest of the day with your family.

Teach your family to be more charitable.  Perhaps your family can come in and volunteer at the place where you work.  Through my place of worship, I have spent many Christmas mornings as a volunteer delivering breakfast trays to hospital patients; other families worked with me and it actually was quite fun.  Or if your family is musical, for example, get permission to provide entertainment for patients on the special holidays.

I'd love to hear from readers about some of the special things they might have done for their patients during the holiday season.


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