When I first saw my intern schedule, one of the first things I saw was December filled with the dreaded words. Trauma Surgery.
That is when I knew. I would not have Christmas off. There would be no way to go home and visit family over the holidays. Yes, clinics shut down for Christmas. Why couldn't I have clinic in December? But trauma? That happens every day of the year. Every single day. Just watch some guy in a Santa suit fall off the roof Christmas Eve.
Over a deparment lunch, I was complaining to a fellow intern that I thought I would work over Christmas. She shrugged, non-chalantly, and replied, "Well, we're doctors. That's what we do."
Her statement made me want to shrink into myself and cry. So this is what I'd signed up for. Holidays, weekends, and birthdays away from family are just part of the deal. They don't put that on the brochure for medical school.
But I started thinking about it. Maybe this is what I signed up for. If I have patients in the hospital over Christmas, it's not as if they want to be there either (except for the homeless drunk we admitted two weeks ago. He's as happy as a clam to be in the hospital for Christmas.) And if my patients are going to be in the hospital over the holidays, they still need lab work and xrays and nursing care and food and medication. And the people who provide all that are working on Christmas. I'm part of a system that doesn't take days off.
It turns out that I don't work Christmas. So all the insight and mental preparation were for nothing, right? Well, probably not. I'm not delusional enough to think I'll go my entire residency (much less my professional career) and not work a major holiday. The fact that I got both Christmas and Thanksgiving off as an intern is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. But I remember watching home videos of Christmases over the years, and realized that many of those Christmases didn't happen on December 25th. Many of the videos had the date Dec 24 or 12/26 on the bottom. My dad often worked Christmas. And we adapted.
But I'll work on the acceptance and coping mechanisms later.
When I got my schedule with December 24 and December 25 as days off, I danced for joy. I actually bounced up and down as my schedule printed out. I hugged everyone in the house. I felt like I could finally start celebrating. I've thrown myself into Christmas. I'm more excited for Christmas this year than I have been since I was 9.
It also helps that my co-intern, who is working Christmas, is Jewish. He got the first weekend of Hannukah off. I get Christmas off. We're both happy.
Yes, there will be Christmases where presents are opened the day before or the day after or late in the afternoon. That's what I've signed up for.
But this year? Christmas morning will find me around the tree with my three boys, wearing pajamas and drinking hot cocoa and enjoying the moment.