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Balancing Holiday Joy and Medical Practice Business


A recent discussion with my medical practice staff regarding working Christmas Eve has left me feeling less like Santa and more like Scrooge.

I am feeling somewhat Grinch-like this week. I am usually full of the holiday spirit and can't wait to put up the Christmas decorations and send out the holiday cards. In years past, I had holiday cards made up from our office and sent them to our favorite referring physicians. Somehow, I'm really feeling it this year.

Maybe it's because the year has gone by so quickly. Maybe it's because every patient who walks in this week has asked me about "Obamacare," and the thought of how things will change come January has me apprehensive. But I think primarily it's because I have mixed feelings about the upcoming closure of our office for the holidays.

When the office was new, and the revenue was sparse, when the office was closed and the staff did not come in, they were not paid. I couldn't afford to pay them for days when patients weren't being seen. As the practice grew and the income was better, I began to pay them for holidays. If there was an unscheduled closure due to weather, I still paid them. Last year, Christmas fell on a Tuesday, and I gave the staff the option of working on Dec. 24 and having an office holiday party or foregoing the party and having the day off. They opted for the latter. The year before, Christmas was on a Sunday, so they were obviously off for both Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

Well, this year, Christmas falls on a Wednesday. It was my intention to let them have that day off, of course, but the office was to be open on the Dec. 24. I did not notice until last week that the schedule had been blocked. I informed the staff that the office was supposed to be open that day. The response I got was "We've never worked Christmas Eve before." One employee had already made travel plans, another has out of town family coming in.

Begrudgingly, I said I will count it as an unpaid holiday. The office will be closed, but no one gets paid. I also informed them that next year, they should plan to work on the Dec. 24.

As I said, I have mixed feelings. I feel taken advantage of. Am I being too nice a boss? Letting the staff dictate when the office will be closed? I feel guilty. After all, it is Christmas. Am I being Scrooge-like? Is working Christmas Eve too much to ask!?

I want my staff to be happy, but this is a business. I hope I don't find coal in my stocking this year.

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