Working Christmas Day
About a month before Christmas, I formally requested the day off, which is standard protocol for the large, corporate-run, skilled nursing facility where I work. The "request" was in writing, detailing dates and "vacation days" remaining in my yearly benefits. I also verbally discussed taking the day off with my rehab director and his assistant. In the end I received a weak, "we'll see what we can do" response. This was not what I was hoping to hear, in light of such advanced notice.
To be honest, I was feeling stressed and a little entitled. I'd just worked Thanksgiving and celebrated the holiday without my kids, as they were with their father and his family. I was looking forward to them spending Christmas with me, in accordance with our separation agreement, and I wanted to enjoy the whole day together. And, hey -- I just worked Thanksgiving!
As we all know, there are many differences between inpatient and outpatient PT, which fellow ADVANCE blogger Michael discussed this week. Frankly, the two have complete different skill sets and schedules. A hospital never closes, after all. Although I love working in a SNF, working holidays and rotating weekends can be depressing -- especially when my outpatient PT friends are enjoying three-day weekends on Labor Day. With that said, holiday pay is extremely helpful and welcome when the 4th of July falls on a Wednesday. Anyway, a few weeks went by and I found myself hovering around the PT work-schedule calendar posted in the rehab office. My name was still on for December 25th without even a possible question mark (which is what usually happens when they need a PRN therapist to fill a shift).
Finally, my boss dropped the bad news in my lap one evening as I was leaving for the day. He sympathetically explained that as one of the three full-time PTAs, it would be necessary for me to work that day -- despite my one-month advance request. The newly hired PT was off that day, per her contractual agreement. I was completely bummed, for lack of a better description. I went home and immediately started "Operation Plan B Christmas." It involved relatives babysitting my kids in the morning and arriving home for takeout Christmas dinner.
After stewing over the bad news (all week), I came to a few realizations. I'm not the only person working on Christmas and I'm lucky to have this job at all. More importantly, my patients will also be away from their homes and working as well, with me in therapy. Perhaps going to work and making a difficult situation a little more tolerable for someone else is the whole point of Christmas. Having finally made peace with my modified holiday, the rehab director announced a week later that he made the executive decision to close the gym for Christmas anyway. I was thrilled of course (if not initially confused) and grateful for the gift of time I can spend with my family. But there was a bit of regret I wouldn't be there for my patients on that day. This will be the last Christmas I take for granted, for a long time.