Missing out on the Christmas roast isn't the only reason people stress about the possibility of giving birth over the holidays. A common question: Do hospitals schedule nurses based on seniority? And if so, does that mean only new-hires work Christmas?
The answer? Nope. Everybody on staff takes their turn to work the holidays, so you can expect the same mix of new and seasoned nurses to be on your delivery unit if you go into labor.
Here's how it goes at the hospitals where I've worked: Several months before the holiday season starts, nurses put in their requests for which holidays they want off and which they "want" to work. (I put "want" in quotes because many of us would prefer not to work the holidays.) If you work Christmas one year, you can anticipate getting the next year off, but you'll probably work Thanksgiving. Sometimes nurses swap shifts or find someone willing to work a few of their hours at the beginning or end of their shift so they can spend part of the holiday at home.
Even though most hospitals offer premium pay for working holidays, many nurses would still rather stay home. But that's the nature of the business: Hospitals stay open, women have babies at all hours of the day and night, every day of the year. Babies… geesh…they have no consideration for other people's Christmas plans.
That doesn't mean some nurses don't love working holidays—and not just for the extra money. See, there's something magical about the births that happen on holidays. There's a special sense of glad tidings on the unit that takes the sting out of missing our own families, and there's a special bond that forms with the coworkers you spend the shift with. Over the years, your co-nurses, technicians and assistants become more than colleagues. They're your sisters, friends and work-spouses; the people you know will have your back if a birth turns sour, or a shift turns crazy.
And when a holiday shift is mellow, and the babies are sweet and healthy, you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else with the same kind of magic. Maybe there was a bit of that magic in a manger somewhere long, long ago.
So if your labor starts on a holiday, don't worry that you'll be attended by brand new nurses or resentful staff. Know you'll be cared for by a team of professionals who, over the years, have become a family. Know that they consider working the holiday a form of service that they're honored to provide. Sure, they wish they were with their kids or husbands or parents, but your nurses, doctors and midwives are also honored to be spending the day with you, welcoming your new baby into your family.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children.