Working the Festive Season

Christmas and New Year’s is such a fun time in South Africa. It’s the middle of Summer. The weather is gorgeous, perfect for swimming and braaing, spending time with family, and reading.

It’s my first festive season of working full-time.


I’ve had to study over the festive season before… and I’ve waited tables as well. But that’s not quite the same…

I don’t get to bake cookies with the family because it is done early in the day. My Christmas shopping has been rushed, and I had so many ideas for awesome gifts that didn’t come into fruition because of the time-issue.

My family ends up making (or not making) a lot of their plans around my schedule, which also makes me feel a little guilty.

While the rest of the world winds down, we wind up. Stabs and assaults and MVAs increase three-fold or more.

Our calls are crazy – not only the patient load but the sheer number of them that come in drunk and unruly.

Everybody who gets Christmas leave suddenly remembers they had appointments with the doctor ages ago; so our clinics are a mess of trying to figure out what to do with the patients who missed their follow-ups and subsequently have worsening or additional pathology.

Driving home after a busy call is extra scary because not only are we deathly tired, but the drivers on the road are likely to be inebriated.

Our hours are longer, and if we wish to do anything – order medicine, transport a patient, or even sort out our own personal administrative devils (banking, travel issues, insurance, WHATEVER) we get this response: it’s the festive season. They’re closed, or so short-staffed that it will be handled in the new year.

The rest of the hospital is short-staffed – even the nurses!

Junior doctors aren’t allowed leave over the festive season, but senior doctors are; which makes the pressure a whole lot more.

I feel like the only other sector that really understands the situation is retail, and probably law enforcement. I know it’s a generalisation but half of the problem is in one’s perception, isn’t it.

I’ll have Christmas weekend off, and will be working New Year’s weekend. But an off weekend means little in a state of pure exhaustion.

But really; I don’t want SYMPATHY.

I take pride in knowing that I will be there when a patient arrives in shock, or with a knife in his chest, or any myriad of ways.

And I did know that I would be working over holidays. I guess I just had no idea what it really feels like; working hard while most of the world seems to be on holiday.



  1. Geseënde Kersfees. Dankie ook vir die harde werk die tyd. Ons kan nie daarsonder nie.

  2. Sinentlahla Mboxo says:

    Your posts are amazing. They give a person the entire deal of being a doctor, not just the “save lives” part. I’ve been considering medicine but I’m just not sure yet with the long working hours and ungrateful patients. How do you deal with this? Many of my peers are considering this. How did you decide?

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really prepared for the ungrateful patients. Now, when it happens, I do experience a lot of emotions that are sometimes hard to deal with.
      Really, my saving grace is that I exercise regularly, and that I have people to vent to.
      I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I have a few posts about choosing medicine and the “passion deception”.
      You can find them here:

  3. Nancy Ackelson says:

    Love you Mariechen, hope you get some rest and a bit of celebration.


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