Working Thanksgiving? Here’s What You Can do to Make the Most of it

Working Thanksgiving? Here’s What You Can do to Make the Most of it

One of the downfalls of working in the medical field is that you’re required to work a certain number of holidays (at most facilities). Working Thanksgiving? Here’s what you can do to make the most of it. 

If you’re new to having to work a major holiday, getting the news is never fun. Many times we know far in advance and can try to trade with someone for a holiday they care more about (Hannakah, for example). However, in the case, you’re not allowed to trade, or no one is willing to trade, you’re stuck working a holiday you don’t want to be working through. For me, the two most important holidays were Thanksgiving and Christmas (this rings true for most people). 

Thanksgiving growing up, was one of the most important holidays of the year. There’s no pressure for gifts, and it brought the entire family together. Not to mention, I’ve always been a huge fan of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn. Pair that with our entire family getting together (aunts, uncles, etc.), and I had the perfect day. Rather than focusing on the negative and being grumpy about being at work, it’s important to treat work as your second family. 

One of the best ways to do this is to orchestrate a potluck for the co-workers. This can be set per department or on a larger scale depending on the size of your facility. 

To-Do List: 

Create a Master List of Who’s Working on Thanksgiving

One you have this list, this will help you with creating the master sheet of what each person agrees to bring to the potluck. This will be important to ensure that everyone commits to participate. There’s nothing worse than having a potluck, and only three people participate, and they all bring the same items. 

Create a List of Key Items

Create a list of key items that you’ll want everyone to bring to ensure a full feast rather than a hodgepodge or too many people bringing the same item. Each person will be instructed to select one of the main items from the list. We’ve included a few ideas below. 

  • Turkey
  • Vegan Alternative Turkey 
  • Gravy
  • Mashed Potatoes 
  • Stuffing 
  • Green Beans 
  • Yams
  • Corn 
  • Dinner Rolls 
  • Cranberry Sauce 
  • Pumpkin Pie 
  • Apple Pie 
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Soda
  • Sparkling Apple Juice 
  • Hot Cider 
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Coffee
  • Thanksgiving Decorations
  • Plasticware 
  • Heated Catering Canisters 

One of the most important things that is generally forgotten is that it’s impossible for everyone to eat at once. Ideally, items can be in heated catering canisters, or crockpots and meals can be grouped for lunch breaks so that co-workers can enjoy their meals together rather than breaking alone. An additional ideal scenario is that the staff enjoys the meal at once rather than grazing. This would involve planned lunches (laughable for most hospitals), rather than allowing people to come into the pot luck and craze the food. 

With COVID in mind, typical pot-lucks aren’t encouraged. However, with careful consideration, it can be done strategically to keep items less likely to get contaminated. An additional reason the one meal/serving per person overgrazing may be the best option during these uncertain times. 

The Turkey 

It’s generally best to have people contribute a dollar amount to help cover the cost of the turkey and time for cooking (considering most other dishes take significantly less time, or no time at all). Sometimes, the cost of the turkey will be covered by the administration. 


Remember, patients have to be at the hospital too. They don’t want to be there any more than you do. It’s important to be in a great mood and show you want to be there. This could be one of the worst days in their lives, you can make it a little bit brighter. 

Have you had a Thanksgiving at work? How did it go? What did you love or wished they did differently? Working Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments below. 


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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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