Owl in a Santa Hat
So, you have either chosen to work the holidays to give those with small kids the time off (you selfless angle), or you are doing it for the increased holiday pay (get that debt down!) or you just drew the short candy-cane from the pile.

Either-way, working over the holidays is hard. You miss family/friends (who often don’t understand why you can’t be there), you are often under-staffed, and it is usually very, very busy.

These tips will help you survive and thrive through the holidays!
Horse in Santa Hat
Dress up and embrace the holiday season! The more you jump into it, the more fun you can have!
Decorate your clinic/work-place, put on holiday music! Make the day special so you can get in the spirit!

Having a ‘holiday station’ with toys/treats in reception for clients waiting will help them be in less of a rush, and will help relieve some anxiety, and will buy you a bit of time! Also, it might help them realize that you are missing your family as well!
Many families/friends that don’t work shifts, or don’t work in a field that requires 24-hour service, don’t understand WHY you can’t be there for the holidays. They don’t understand that you can’t just say ‘no’, or that the patients can’t just ‘get treated the next day’. This can be very dis-heartening and guilt-inducing.

Simply explain ONCE that you are required at work because your job is one where animals get sick ALL the time, and don’t take a break for Christmas, and you are sorry you can’t be there. After that explanation- FORGET IT! Don’t feel guilty for doing your job! Don’t stress about if you will offend or upset people. If it is that important to spend time with those individuals, see the next point….
Calendar of various dates
Create your own ‘Holiday Day’ with family/friends so that you don’t have to miss out!
Do you absolutely LOVE the holidays and don’t want to miss them, but HAVE to work! Or, are your family/friends making your life difficult for missing their event?

Plan ahead and hold your own ‘Holiday Day’, that falls on a day you aren’t working. It can be the weekend before/after the holiday, or can be in a different month. Christmas is supposed to be in our hearts always, so why not have a ‘Christmas Day’ on Dec 14th? Or better yet, on Jan 5th (because then you can get peoples’ gifts on sale on Boxing day- if you aren’t working).

This way, you also have an ‘out’ from the guilt-trip that family can send you on, because you have provided a completely rational and viable option for spending time with one another!
Don’t try to work, make it to that Christmas party on 2 hours of sleep, and then get back to work for another shift! Don’t try to do too much! You need to sleep and recover between your shifts, and if that means you have to miss out on a party, just accept that and move on! Or, if you do feel you can fit-in a couple hours, set yourself a time-limit well ahead of time and stick by it.

Also, don’t over-commit- don’t stress yourself to make that perfect cake/roast- allow your family/friends to take over and pamper you, and let you recover. You can take on more responsibilities next time!
Cat licking whipped cream out of a mug.
Bring yourself a special treat for those holiday shifts, so you feel you are part of the fun!
If you need to work the holidays, bring yourself a treat/reward! Maybe that is a more fancy meal, maybe it is a box of chocolates, or maybe it is a fruit platter. Plan a couple extra ‘treats’ for yourself during those holiday shifts, so that you can take part in the fun as well!
Holidays are busy at clinics! All the other clinics are closed, and animals are eating EVERYTHING! The animals that have been sick for days but families have been ‘hoping they will make it through one more Christmas’ or ‘didn’t notice because they were prepping for the holidays’ will all pile up.

Remember, you can only work as fast as you can work. Work efficiently, work hard, but don’t stress yourself silly. Keep on being the KICK ASS vet team that you are, be nice to one another, and eventually your shift will end!

Also, having signs up in your waiting room explaining the triage process so that clients aren’t getting impatient, and a receptionist that can explain the wait and keep clients updated is helpful!
As with any shift, try to make it fun! Have fun with your team, laugh at the silly lab that ate a whole ‘Baby Yoda’ toy and how it looks covered in vomit when you get it back up!

By actively trying to stay positive, you will find the humour in some of your patients instead of the stress, and you will spread that positivity to your co-workers and clients.

A week before the holidays get some pins/scarves/anything that you can send home your patients with, to help lighten the mood. Talk to your boss about creating ‘I spent Christmas with my __(insert vet clinic name)__ family this year!’ bandanas. Anything to lighten the mood and get a laugh going with staff and clients!
After the holidays are over, and you have worked extra-shifts, longer/harder hours, take a well deserved break. Even if it is only one day to yourself, where you don’t clean/cook, or where your partner/family pamper you. Take a break and a breath- because we all know how hard/stressful those holiday shifts can be!
Kick Ass Vets' logo with a Santa Hat and Canady Cane
KICK ASS VETS wish you a wonderful Holiday Season, whether you are working or not!
Happy Holidays from KICK ASS VETS! Share your work-family holiday pictures with #kickassvets on KICK ASS VETS Instagram, or on our KICK ASS VETS Facebook page!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published December 20th, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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