Working over Christmas

Posted on December 10, 2018 by Daniella Dos Santos

Working over Christmas is tough, I know from personal experience having worked over the festive period the last 5 out of 6 years, and on Christmas Day itself last year. It is tough, not only from a personal perspective of not being with family, but also from a professional perspective of having to deal with emergencies, often alone, during what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of year.

But it’s also a tough day for the people we come into contact with: the fellow nurses, receptionists or animal care assistants also working, the owners who have pets staying in hospital over the festive period, as well as those who have to pay a visit to the practice on Christmas day due to a poorly pet.

So how can you make it a little more bearable?

Last year I came to work with a Santa hat! Not your usual work uniform, but it helped keep the staff upbeat and smiling and was easy enough to take off when seeing clients with very poorly pets. Where we could we also had music on, not necessarily festive, but upbeat music to try and keep up morale. Before the day, all members of staff agreed to bring in some form of Christmas dinner, and despite it being busy, we found a short amount of time to sit down and eat together. Nothing can make up for not spending time with loved ones, but it went some way. We also took a few minutes in the middle of our shift to call family: a video call home to witness the serious nature of the monopoly game taking place put a smile on my face.

It’s not all merry, sometimes its “bah humbug”

There were of course moments during my shift filled with joy such as discharging a patient that had been in for a week just in time to go home for Christmas celebrations, however, it is important to recognise that it is not all happiness and smiles despite the time of year. There is a significant emotional toll on many members of our profession over the Christmas period – it can be a difficult time whether you’re working or not.

For those working, many of the cases we deal with are exceptionally sad. Last year I put more than one animal to sleep. One was an elderly 13-year-old Labrador who that morning simply couldn’t stand anymore. It was a very sad, yet peaceful goodbye, with family members and me in tears. It’s ok to show emotion to clients, not only do they see you care, but it also prevents you from bottling up all your feelings.

Look after yourself, and each other

BVA are immensely proud of the work you are doing and the sacrificies you are making. Those of you working this Christmas are doing an invaluable job looking after the nation’s animals, but don’t forget to look after yourselves and each other. Talk to each other, listen, keep an eye out for any colleagues who may be struggling, and don’t be scared to reach out if you need some support. Vetlife is there for you too, 24 hours a day, including over the festive period.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our veterinary colleagues, working or not, a very happy Christmas.

More information

Read John Fishwicks blog: ‘Tis the season to be jolly… and on call

Daniella Dos Santos

Written by Daniella Dos Santos

BVA Junior Vice President and AWF trustee

Daniella is currently studying towards a CertAVP Zoological Medicine and is the Principal Exotics Vet at Park Vets Hospital. She is also BVA Junior Vice President, the current Chair of the BVA Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel and a trustee for the Animal Welfare Foundation.