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December 6, 2013

Residents’ tips for holidays in the hospital

Will you be spending your holidays in the hospital - sporting scrubs instead of pajama pants, smelling disinfectant instead of pine needles, seeing coworkers instead of family?

Fear not! We bring you good tidings - er, tips - from fellow residents who’ve learned to make the most of their holidays at work:

 1. Plan a potluck.

Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you can’t eat a home-cooked holiday meal!

Bringing food "makes you and other people around you feel better," says John Paul Tutela, Plastic Surgery fellow at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. "It really makes a difference."

Sarah Howard Borders, Obstetrics/Gynecology resident at the Medical College of Wisconsin, echoes this tip. "Over Christmas and Thanksgiving, the nurses and residents and sometimes even the attendings will have a potluck or order from a nice restaurant to eat together."

Sharing a meal can help you feel energized and encouraged, and it will give you something to look forward to during your holiday.

 2. Coordinate work schedules with friends.

If you’re strategic about your schedule, you can spend the working holidays surrounded by those you love.

"Choos[e] to work the same holidays as your closest nurse or resident friends," says Borders. "[That way] you can at least be with some of your favorite people when you’re working through a holiday."

 3. Postpone your family celebration.

Speaking of schedules, let your family members know when you will and won’t be working, and see if they can plan holiday festivities accordingly.

Borders, whose husband is also a resident, says, "Last Christmas both of our families postponed the celebrations until we were able to come home over New Year’s."

This can make the holidays more enjoyable not only for you but also for others in your family. Hannah Miller, whose husband Cory is an Obstetrics/Gynecology resident at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., says, "Celebrat[ing] on a different day … makes the holiday that he’s not home seem like just another day, and it’s not so sad."

 4. Bring the family to you.

Have loved ones stop by the hospital, or at least phone the family during your break.

"Invite your significant other to join the potluck if he or she isn’t working, too," says Borders. Or, if they don’t live nearby, "FaceTime or Skype with your family, even if you can only take a couple of minutes to do so."

 5. Be merry and bright.

Deliberately act cheery, and you’re almost guaranteed to feel cheery. Anna Hulbert, Family Medicine resident at University Hospital, takes this approach on every holiday that she works. "I love holidays. I love wearing a clown’s nose on Halloween. I love bringing doughnuts on fellow residents’ birthdays," she says. "I have Christmas off this year, but I honestly wouldn’t mind working. I’d wear a red and green t-shirt under my scrubs."

 6. Keep a positive perspective.

In a similar vein, remind yourself why you got into medicine in the first place, and let it motivate you to keep a positive attitude.

"Try to keep the perspective that your patients really don’t want to be in the hospital either and that you are there to help them," says Borders. "It’s important not to feel self-pity over the fact that you’re working on a holiday. You go into this profession to help others, and people need medical care every day of the year!"

 7. Think of the future.

Residency is all about providing you with experience and preparing you for a lifetime in medicine. Everything that you’re learning in this stage should help you evaluate post-residency career opportunities and practice options. Though you probably can’t work your ideal schedule now, it’s not too soon to consider what your ideal schedule would be. How much flexibility will you need? What kind of hospital environment do you like most? What type of practice will you be looking for? Make the most of your holidays in the hospital - and your  residency - by asking these questions now. And when you’re ready to look for that practice, start your search at PracticeLink, where you’ll find more than 15,5000 job opportunities from 5,000 health care facilities nationwide.



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