Tonight, I’ll be working as the Nocturnist (Night Pediatric Hospitalist) in St. Louis, Missouri…
Over several years of medical training, I became very accustomed to being thousands of miles away from family during the Holidays. As a Californian that trained in Louisiana and Texas, even if I was able to secure a handful of days off, travel time made going back home for the holidays almost impossible. I come from a relatively small family and while we do have SOME family traditions, in general things tend to be very low-key and not overly extravagant or flamboyant. I do miss being around family and friends, not particularly for the “holidays” per se, but as a generality; however, the life of a locum tenens provider often takes me farther and farther away at the times that most people find themselves getting closer together.
If anything, one of the main reasons that locum tenens exists is for coverage of times like the Holidays. Often times, I find myself working holiday coverage to help others take that time off. As a single guy with minimal responsibilities, i’m not missing out on Christmas with my dogs at home or Thanksgiving with my fiancee’s family for the first time or spending time in general with kids out of school for their seasonal breaks. From the standpoint of altruistic intention, I might as well work the holidays so that my colleagues can have that time for their own enjoyment – I’ll probably survive. Often times, there’s a financial bonus for working the more difficult holiday coverage, but I view this as secondary to helping out people to enjoy their lives while I’m still searching for the meaning of my own. Even in Residency I would always jump at working the holidays so my co-Residents could be with their growing families.
Still, It definitely occasionally gets lonely as I find myself wandering the hospital corridors late at night, or the streets of small towns perusing the christmas lights and looking for food on a Sunday when everything has closed. I do miss being around people back home and the holidays often serve to be reminders of love and family which makes me more nostalgic than anything – I tell myself it’s temporary.
Alas, there are good things about working the holidays. The best thing I remember, when I’m not geographically near my family is that: I’m not the only one. I will never forget the AMAZING Filipino Thanksgiving Parties with the nurses when I was in residency, or the fact that everyone in the department (because i’m a Pediatrician) dresses up in festive clothes for Christmas, or the late night hospital surprises and food. There is some solidarity in working the holidays and it really becomes what you make of it. Besides, there are kids and families that are stuck in the hospital, so the least I can do is be stuck with them.
The holidays are naturally a time for people to gather that aren’t often able to, a reminder of the importance or friends, family and love. But, not everyone is lucky enough to be healthy enough to enjoy them. So, someone’s got to take care of them. I always find it an honor to work the holidays; after all, someone’s got to do it.