Working on a holiday can be tough, but there are ways to make it not only tolerable, but fun. We asked some nurses who work on the holidays for tips on how to make the time special and enjoyable. Here’s what they had to say:

“Sometimes, involving patients can be fun, too. I worked night shift with other men a few years ago, and when the Cavs got deep into the NBA playoffs, we had parties in the rooms of conscious patients who enjoyed basketball. The same can be done with Christmas movies, the Super Bowl, etc. and benefits everyone.

Decorating the unit and potlucks are a must, but again, involve patients and their families—especially on floors where patients stay long term—really helps everyone have more of a home outside of home.”

—Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN

“One thing we do to keep it fun and festive [in the NICU] is to take sweet holiday photos of the babies in giant red stockings, so the parents have a cute keepsake from their baby’s first Christmas.

We always have a delicious potluck so that all of us—nurses, therapists, doctors—have wonderful, home-cooked food to look forward to on our long 12-hour shift.

Holiday-themed scrubs, Santa hats, paper snowflakes decorating the walls, and Christmas music will all bring cheer to families visiting their babies in the NICU.

If you’re allowed to decorate the walls, it’s cheap and easy to cut paper snowflakes and brighten the mood everywhere—the front desk, the patient rooms, anywhere it will bring cheer. And it’s something you can do last minute if there’s nothing else around your unit that is cheerful.

If your hospital allows you to choose your own scrubs, you can find cute holiday-themed scrubs, or just decorate your green or red scrubs with a holiday pin, a Santa hat, or a red and green lanyard for your ID.

If you’re working the night shift, consider bringing in Christmas lights, miniature Christmas trees with lights, or even plain fairy lights to string from the monitors and IV poles to make the mood more festive.

It really does feel good to give on the holidays, so consider writing some sweet “Happy Holidays” note cards ahead of time that you can give out to your patients that day.

We have volunteers who bring in their therapy dogs to visit patients, and on Christmas they have the dogs dressed in holiday sweaters and Santa hats, delivering small gifts to patients like Santa.

These are a couple things we are not doing but I think it would be awesome:

Performing a holiday flash mob—breaking into Christmas song and dance to bring a smile to our patients.

Have a group of carolers stroll through the halls, singing acapella Christmas carols to all of the patients who wish to feel festive.”

—Trish Ringley, RN, and owner of

“As nurses, it is our role to administer medications on an as-needed basis, or ‘PRN.’ This includes reliefs for pain, nausea, anxiety, etc. Alongside performing hourly rounding on our patients, we offer these PRN medications aiming to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. For every PRN medication that a nurse administers, they receive candy canes. Whoever collects the most candy canes by the end of a 12-hour shift receives a gift card to any restaurant near the facility or a free meal provided by the hospital cafe. This game makes working on Christmas fun and engaging, and it also provides an opportunity for nurses to go above and beyond and assure that their patients will have the best holiday possible while being cared for.”

—Shawn Butler, LVN

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

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