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Tips for Taking Time Off

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As a healthcare professional, you are well aware that it takes a certain tirelessness just to keep up with, much less excel at, everything your job demands. Between managing patients, tasks, and the odd crisis, the work never seems to end. It’s this very nature of the field that means you will eventually need to take some time off to maintain your health and sanity, whether it’s for a long-awaited exotic vacation with your significant other or to spend a few days in bed recovering from a case of stress-induced pneumonia you caught after pulling 49 straight overnight shifts. When the time does come, don’t just clock out and take off running for the hills without warning. Here are a few tips to help you ensure everything continues running smoothly in your absence while you’re off relaxing.

Give Advance Notice

Have you had the around-the-world sojourn of your dreams planned out a year in advance? Then even if it seems like it’s a long way off, inform your employer of the dates you want the moment you know what they are (as in immediately after you’ve booked your flight if possible – just wait a few minutes until you’ve finished your rant about the cost of airfare these days). The sooner the better. Not only does it give the powers that be the time they need to make any necessary preparations for your absence, but it also ensures that nothing will stand in the way of your much-needed respite. Wait until the last minute to request the time off and you run the risk of getting locked into new obligations that could potentially lead to your request being denied.

If you’re sick, call in early

Similarly, if you are unexpectedly compelled to miss work because of illness or another emergency, don’t wait to call in until after you were supposed to come in and everyone has already started panicking about the possibility of you having been abducted by aliens. Have you been up all night expelling fluids from your orifices? Well, then you’re already conscious and able to let your employer know you won’t be coming in that day. A phone call is preferred — emails can seem thoughtless — and it allows you the opportunity to give a polite but firm update on why you’ll be missing work.

Find someone to cover for you

Whether you request time off months in advance or have no choice but to call in sick a matter of minutes before you’re scheduled to come in for the day, it puts a burden on your employer to make sure your typical workload gets covered and that nothing — from patient care to paperwork — slips through the cracks. Doing some of this legwork yourself relieves that pressure and reflects well on you – it shows that you’re on top of the ball and know what needs to get done. Even if you have to deliriously call colleagues while hunched over the toilet to ask them to see your patients or help prepare an evaluation, it will pay off – perhaps even by minimizing any backlog you’ll have to tackle when you get back to work.

Tell everyone who needs (or might like) to know

Of course, make sure you go through any required administrative procedures when calling in sick or requesting vacation time. But doing so doesn’t guarantee everyone in your workplace who will be affected by your absence will be informed that you’ll be gone ahead of time. Inform your superiors and staff that you’ll be gone and how your usual responsibilities will be delegated. Tell your patients or students too – they’ll need to know more than anyone how their care will be managed and by whom while you’re away.

Don’t feel guilty, as long as you have a good reason

In a field where so much is at stake—what you do is often literally a matter of life and death—it’s understandable why you, as a healthcare professional, may think twice about missing work. But leisure or sick time is essential if you want to be able to do your best work when you are on duty. Got some vacation days saved up and want to visit your family? Go for it! Beset with a contagious disease? Depending on your specialization, there are more than likely already enough sick and/or immunosuppressed people in your workplace, so deciding to “tough it out” can actually be very dangerous. Feel like staying home on the couch and going on a QVC shopping spree? Yeah, maybe wait until the weekend. Taking frivolous days off may foster distrust that could interfere with you getting the time you really need off. But if you’ve already proven yourself to be committed and trustworthy, don’t sweat taking a few days away to recharge – you deserve it.