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6 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays as a Student Nurse

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated December 2, 2022
    Student nurses may need to be creative and flexible to celebrate the holidays. But, with planning and preparation, the time can be memorable and entertaining.
    • Celebrating the holidays as a student nurse can be challenging, but with a little planning and preparation, it can be memorable and entertaining.
    • Student nurses may need to find creative ways of celebrating their holidays, including religious events, birthdays, and anniversaries.
    • Student nurses may find flexibility is key to keeping traditions alive. It’s important to remember that friends and patients may also be missing celebrations at home, so consider how you can give to others to raise your own spirits.

    Student nurses must find unique and creative ways of celebrating the holidays. Whether that holiday celebration is a religious one, or your birthday or anniversary, celebrations must often be flexible to accommodate school and work.

    Healthcare is delivered 24/7 and waits for no one. Yet celebrations are often the busiest times of the year, and you may be asked to work or study on the very day you hoped to celebrate with family and friends.

    Check out six ways to make your holidays a little brighter and stress-free if you must celebrate away from home.

    6 Ways Student Nurses Can Celebrate the Holidays Away From Home

    The business of the holiday season, coupled with a nursing shortage and shortages on the retail shelves, may make it feel as though it’s impossible to manage your responsibilities at home and work. In other words, it can feel like you’re losing any sense of work-life balance.

    While it is challenging, there are steps you can take to appreciate the season and honor your celebrations. With a little planning and preparation, the hours you spend at work and school can be memorable and entertaining.

    1. Keep Your Traditions Alive

    Angela Genzale, BSN, RNC, is a certified life coach and consultant. She is passionate about helping nurses to find personal success without sacrificing everything. She recommends that student nurses spend time keeping their family traditions alive.

    Being away at school may be your first time experiencing the holidays without family leading these traditions. Think about the most meaningful holiday tradition you have and consider how you can incorporate it into your current situation.

    For example, you might make a favorite family recipe, watch a favorite holiday movie, or decorate your room or apartment in a traditional style. Practicing faith-based traditions can also bring comfort and peace into your life.

    2. Share Your Celebrations

    Many students attend nursing school on the other side of the country or the world. If you can’t celebrate with family, consider hosting a holiday celebration with friends who also can’t be home with family. Encourage everyone to bring something that represents their holiday traditions. Genzale advises students who have not yet built a circle of friends and supporters to contact a counselor, mentor, or advisor in the nursing program.

    “They can be a great resource to put you in touch with others in a similar situation who would be willing to share time over the holidays,” she says. “Some have programs for students to be hosted in local homes for a holiday meal.”

    3. Decorate at Work and Home

    Keep your family traditions alive by decorating at home. If you’re cooped up at home studying for tests, taking a break to decorate your space can get you into the holiday spirit.

    If you’re celebrating a religious holiday, ask your manager if you can decorate at work as well. Creating an atmosphere of joy and celebration can help you, your colleagues, and your patients.

    You don’t have to spend a lot on decorations. For example, dollar stores and other discount stores are good places to find cheerful decorative items for home and work. If you work in pediatrics, consider collaborating with the child life specialist to organize crafts for the children to decorate their rooms and the unit.

    4. Be Flexible About Timing

    You may have to be flexible about the timing of your celebrations. If you’re a working nursing student, you may also be working during the holiday. Ask your unit manager if you can bring food in on the holiday to celebrate with the staff.

    If you’re able to get home to your family, you may need to be flexible with your celebrations. For example, you may need to open presents and have a family celebration meal on the weekend before or the day after. There are ways to schedule things, so everyone is involved. It just may not be on the exact day.

    If you are working on the holiday, be mindful that there are patients who also would rather be home with friends and family. Finding little ways to lift your patient’s spirits can also help lift your own.

    5. Treat Yourself

    Holidays are usually a time of gift giving. If you cannot celebrate at home with family or are choosing not to, consider treating yourself to something special. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just something that has meaning to you.

    For example, you may appreciate a massage, pedicure, spa treatment, movie, or special meal. Whatever you choose, it should be something you wouldn’t normally purchase for yourself.

    6. Give Gifts to Others

    Genzale grew up understanding that the spirit of the holidays is to give to someone else. She learned about the power of giving from her mother.

    “Whenever you feel down, the best way to feel better is to help someone else. Giving is the best medicine,” Genzale says her mother would tell her. “That is the true holiday spirit.”

    Volunteer, donate a blanket or a coat, give to your favorite charity or to someone living on the street, or do anything to help someone in need.

    Scientists concur: Giving is good for you. It lowers your risk of dying, makes you feel happier, and promotes cooperation and connection with others. Giving to others is also contagious. Since giving is linked to the release of oxytocin, it induces feelings of euphoria, warmth, and connection.

    Meet Our Contributor

    Portrait of Angela Genzale

    Angela Genzale

    Angela Genzale, BSN, RNC, certified life coach and consultant is passionate about helping nurses overcome stress and anxiety at work and beyond so they can find personal success without sacrificing their soul.


    Suttie J, et al. (2010). 5 ways giving is good for you. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you