The holiday season is upon us. With all the family gatherings, shopping sprees, parties and travel, it’s easy to let other things fall by the wayside. Most people focus on wrapping up the year instead of jumping into a new venture.
That’s why many job seekers take a break during this time with plans to regroup their efforts after the New Year. For healthcare providers, this strategy could ruin their chances of landing their dream job.
After all, opportunity doesn’t take a holiday, and it just so happens that this time is prime job hunting season, especially for physicians. According to Indeed’s data, there is a clear peak in the physician job postings starting in the month of October through the end of the year. Most physicians, however, never reap the benefits of this hiring boom.
It may be tempting to fall into the end-of-the-year slump that plagues job seekers, but the industry needs providers now more than ever. Here’s why the holiday season is the time to stop settling and start hunting for that next step in your career.
‘Tis the Season for Sickness
One reason the industry is so strained during this time is because of the circulation of viruses, like the common cold and flu.The flu especially has overwhelmed healthcare facilities across the country in recent years.
According to the CDC, the flu season of 2017-18 was the deadliest in the last 42 years with a reported 80,000 deaths. The epidemic was so bad that some medical centers had to take more extreme measures to accommodate the influx of patients, such as setting up triage tents, canceling elective surgeries, implementing visitor restrictions and mandatory overtime for staff.
It remains unclear why last year’s flu season was so severe, as the influenza strains weren’t new or unusual in any way. What was unusual was the prolonged high circulation across all 50 states, as well as the severity across all age groups.
For the 2018-19 season, we are already seeing an increase in patient visits for influenza-like illnesses, and so far every state but Virginia has reported flu activity.
Regardless, it’s still too early to tell if this year will be as bad as the last. The only certainty is that the demand for primary care, urgent care and emergency medicine providers is peaking as the year comes to a close.
Illnesses aren’t the only reason for the surge in physician demand though. The holidays are a time for merrymaking, but too much revelry can put people at risk.
The less jolly side of the season is the 12 percent spike in ER visits that occurs on Thanksgiving and Christmas. A lot of these cases aren’t just your standard holiday partiers who overindulge on food and drink, though those certainly aren’t in short supply either. It should come as no surprise that alcohol-related accidents are among the most common injuries during the holidays.
Emergency medicine providers also see bizarre injuries during this time, like one adult patient who got a plastic fork stuck in his throat or a young girl who ended up getting a metal bell lodged into her ear because she “wanted to hear jingle bells.”
Let’s also not forget all the injuries that happen while putting up Christmas decorations. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that approximately 200 decorating-related injuries occur every day during the holiday season.
Dr. Shawn Evans, an EM physician at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in Southern California, says the majority of injuries he sees during the holidays fall into one of three categories: (1) Older men and women who injure their head or neck putting up lights outside, (2) middle-aged men who hurt their shoulders or wrists from drinking while decorating or (3) kids getting lacerations or concussions trying to help their parents with decorations.
Another significant holiday hazard is the beloved Christmas tree. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas tree fires kill approximately 400 Americans and cause almost a billion dollars worth of damages every year.
People who want to rock around the Christmas tree need to remember to buy their trees fresh, water them regularly and place them away from heat sources like air vents and fireplaces. Otherwise, a dry tree can be deadly in a matter of seconds, as demonstrated by CPSC in the video below.
From fire hazards to overindulgence to rampant viruses, there are various reasons why so many get injured or sick during the holiday season, but each one of them drives the need for more providers.
The Gift of Opportunity
Though many prefer not to work on the holidays, the opportunities in doing so are undeniable. Starting a new assignment during this critical time gives you the chance to step up and show your ability to lead and make tough decisions. What may just be work to you could be a patient’s Christmas miracle.
Dr. John Henning Schumann reminisced of working his first Christmas as a resident in an intensive care unit. His mentor at the time said something to him that he’s never forgotten:
It's a privilege to work on Christmas. Our patients count on us. You may not want to be in the hospital, but think of what they're going through. Your mere presence helps reduce each patient's sense of loss.
No one becomes a doctor because it’s easy. Of course, you want to spend this time relaxing with your family and friends, but having these opportunities to help people when they need it most are defining moments in your career and life.
And what you do when you seize those opportunities is the greatest gift you can give.