Tension and Tinsel

The holiday season isn’t joyful for everyone.


Pictured: Kim Watson at Mass General

‘Tis the season to be… stressed? That’s the holiday season for healthcare workers. 

Now that it is the holiday season, many workers are rushing to get in their hours and buy gifts. Healthcare workers, especially with the increasing COVID numbers, are experiencing high levels of stress. Most healthcare workers cannot avoid working on a holiday. 

“I did not have to work for Thanksgiving, but I am on for Christmas and everybody who has to work then is getting super anxious,” said Kim Watson, a registered nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as well as the parent of a Triton student. 

As essential workers, healthcare workers don’t automatically get holidays off like many other professions Healthcare workers are an important part  of society, and those who have never had any experience in the field may have no idea what it is like.

During the holidays, scheduling is different than what it would be like during the rest of the year. According to HealthcareSource, there is not necessarily an increase in the number  of workers needed, it’s the fact that most workers want time off but there still needs to be a nurse (or multiple nurses) from each department present.

Also mentioned by HealthcareSource is a holiday shift policy that can change between healthcare providers. A healthcare shift policy is when  you get one holiday off during one holiday season, or every other holiday season you get the holidays off. Of course it can depend, which shift you get, but some nurses will swap shifts with each other as well. 

“When the kids were younger, someone always worked Christmas so that I was able to be home for Christmas present opening, and now that the kids are older I choose to work Christmas to give back to those coworkers with little kids,” said Liana Webb, an admissions nurse at Care Dimensions Hospice and parent of Triton students. 

Luckily, working on a holiday allows health care workers to make more money, but it can affect their home lives, whether their kids are younger or older. Watson stated “A lot of times, on Thanksgiving when I am working, we would eat at 1 o’clock [pm] and then I would have to get ready and leave.” 

 Watson stated that she is more stressed than previous years now that the COVID cases are increasing. She mentioned that working on a COVID floor during spring 2020, the stress had almost driven her to quit. 

Healthcare workers like Webb and Eileen Hillick, a nursing supervisor who specializes in cardiac surgery at Salem Hospital and is a parent of a Triton student as well, stress about having the lives of patients in their hands. Although Webb already works with people who are near death, she said  that the holidays are a time to be with family, not saying goodbye to family and that causes a bit of stress. 

“It’s the stress you see with the families that are having a hard time having to have these conversations about their loved ones being close to death around the time when they’re supposed to be celebrating family and all the traditions they have” said Webb.

Hillick said she always manages to give her full attention to her patients no matter the amount of stress. “The most stressful part of my job is knowing that patients’ lives are in my hands, and I manage it by trying to be as organized as possible even when it is busy. I work as a team with my coworkers so we can help each other.”

Being away from family on the holidays is different than an average day. Hillick acknowledged the fact that it’s hard for everyone- patients, nurses, and families. 

“Although I may not be home with my family, my patients are very sick and unable to be with their families either. I try to make the shift as happy as possible for all of us.”