A Lasting Gift for a Nurse’s Holiday Shifts and Lost Family Time

Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

As we know, gifts come in many forms, and often are as valuable to the giver as to the receiver. The best ones come at times when we least expect them. Readers will find that the start of AJN‘s December Reflections essay, “A Change of Heart,” describes a frustration that may be familiar to many nurses. In this case, it’s Christmas Day, and a nurse is kept by the urgent demands of her job from spending time with family. She writes:

I’ve been a nurse for more than half of my life . . . I love my career and consider myself blessed to have found my calling. But we all experience times when our long hours and the rigorous demands of this job make us feel that we sacrifice too much of our personal and family time to care for strangers.

The author had planned to be home for Christmas dinner. But, she tells us, “we had four back-to-back emergency CABGs starting at 8 am and stretching long past my scheduled 3 pm end of shift.” The essay develops from there as the hours pass. And then we meet a patient with everything at stake. The author is not the only one in danger of missing Christmas with family, and not just this year but for all the years to come.

We are reminded again and again that nursing has its truly redeeming moments of connection, those reminders that the work you do can be the difference between life and death for a patient. So it happens in this short, engaging essay. We encourage you to click the article title above and give it a read. It’s free, and it might put the various challenges of the holidays into perspective.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor 

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. bzinkfrederick January 17, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Great story. I have many similar events over 38 years of practice. If I had to do it again, I would!
    True calling to me. I keep going even when I can’t, and that’s when the best rewards of my job are received and I have the strength to carry on.

  2. annamaria gallo December 20, 2014 at 2:47 am

    It’s true.
    we feel sad at the thought of our family without us … but this is our job

  3. Mari Tietze December 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for exposing the reality of truly caring for patients. Our families, sacrifice a great deal too, don’t they?

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