Nurse Jodi Miller will spend Christmas Day working in Nelson Hospital's intensive care and coronary care unit. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

‘I have to work on Christmas Day’

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Christmas Day is traditionally a time to relax with your family and friends, exchange gifts, over indulge in chocolate, ham, turkey and pavlova and argue over which movie or game to watch on television.

But for a few people, December 25 will be just another day at the office.Christmas Day may have been designated as a full public holiday since the Public Holidays Act was introduced in 1910 but there are some people who have to turn up to work.

Christmas Day may have been designated as a full public holiday since the Public Holidays Act was introduced in 1910 but there are some people who have to turn up to work.

Many of these dedicated individuals worked are  there to make sure we were all safe and sound including Nelson Hospital Intensive Care and Coronary Care Unit nurse Jodi Miller.

Jodi, who has been nursing since 1992, says the worst thing about working on Christmas Day will be “that moment when you leave your family”. However, Jodi says “once you walk out the door and change your mindset into work mode, it’s usually a great shift.”

“Before I had children,  I’d choose to work Christmas mornings,” Jodi says. “But now I have three boys, all primary school age, so this year I’ve volunteered to work an afternoon because it suits the family.

“It’s always hard to drag yourself away. Your first priority is always your family so it’s difficult.

“But your second priority is your work and the people that need looking after. Once you get there it’s a great day because everyone is usually in good spirits.

“I really enjoy working alongside my colleagues and looking after patients who would rather be at home. It’s usually very jovial and we take special treats along for staff  and have some fun.”

Jodi says she will wake up at 5.30am on Sunday and open presents with her family before heading out to Christmas lunch with family and friends. Then she’ll go to work and “come back at 11.30 at night and see if they are still there”.

Senior sergeant Blair Hall of the Nelson Police. Photo: Simon Bloomberg
Senior sergeant Blair Hall of the Nelson Police. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

Senior sergeant Blair Hall of the Nelson Police has also worked his share of Christmas Days and says “it just goes with the territory when you are a front-line police officer”.  However, Blair concedes that spending most of Christmas Day working became harder once he married and had children.

“It’s never easy missing family events on Christmas Day but you always know well in advance if you are working and juggle things around your shift. It’s not so bad because, if you are on the early shift, you get to the family dinner and the guys on late shift have a family lunch before the start.

“We also encourage our staff, if they have a quiet period, to make contact with their families during their shift. It’s not always possible because our work is so unpredictable but they can usually get time for something, even if it’s a phone call.”

Fortunately, Blair says Christmas Day is traditionally quiet for police “because it’s such a big family day”.

He says the main issues relate to increased traffic movement as people drive around to visit family and friends and domestic violence “because Christmas can be a stressful time, financially and emotionally, for some families”.

There will also a significant number of people working in the hospitality industry on Christmas Day and, although it won’t be a matter of life and death, they still help make it enjoyable for the rest of us.

And for many of them, including Tahuna Beach Holiday Park and Motel manager Marcel Fekkes it’s always one of the busiest days of the year.

Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park and Motel manager Marcel Fekkes. Photo: Simon Bloomberg
Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park and Motel manager Marcel Fekkes. Photo: Simon Bloomberg

“We have 2500 to 3000 people in the camp over Christmas so we have to keep about 50 staff on over that period,” Marcel says. “We usually get about 100 people arriving on Christmas Day and another 200 on Boxing Day so there’s always a lot of preparation on Christmas Eve.

“I’ll get up at 6am on Christmas Day and get into work at 7am and then jump on the bike and do a round of the park to see if everything is in order.”

Although it’s busy, Marcel says it’s always enjoyable because the Christmas spirit is contagious and everyone is happy. And after a lifetime of working in the hospitality industry, Marcel says working on Christmas Day is “just part of the game”.