Halloween in the hospital
Halloween. A holiday that has been commercialized for the selling of exorbitant amounts of candy, masks, and provocative adult costumes. A holiday that has been secularized from its original celebration of martyrs and saints to trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, and haunted houses.
To be honest, I enjoy the approach of Halloween as the leaves are changing colors and the temperature is cooling down. It symbolizes the beginning of the fall holidays (my favorite ones) including Thanksgiving in a month and Christmas in December. From a nurse’s perspective, Halloween can be a perfect combination of fun, creepy, and sometimes even a little demeaning.
Fun. If you are scheduled to work Halloween and you have to miss the kids out trick-or-treating, what environment could take the cake for 2nd place in the fun category? A children’s hospital! Our hospital hosts a Halloween parade in the lobby for patients and their families to show off costumes and get in the Halloween spirit. It’s impressive how kids in the hospital show some humor and their personalities when they dress up. I saw an oncology patient that was actively getting chemotherapy dressed as an old man in a wheelchair. His explanation? “Well I was already bald and in a wheelchair, I couldn’t have picked an easier costume.” He was all smiles in the parade. Halloween week always marks the beginning of spirit week on our floor as well- basically, it’s an excuse for our nurses to dress up each day of the week for the kid’s viewing pleasure. People come in costume on Halloween Day, followed by Superhero Day, favorite sports team day, etc. This gives the staff a chance to show their creative flare as well. And Halloween also marks the beginning of the influx of goodies at the nurse’s station that will continue for the next two months. That part, although delicious, is not so great on the waistline.
Creepy. I worked a Halloween night a couple years back and in the middle of the night when things were slow we all started telling spooky stories pertaining to the hospital. Night shift in itself is more lonely, dark, and in the right setting can be a little creepy. Especially if you have to go down to the deserted kitchen alone to get your patient a snack. But some nurses started telling stories of one of our particular rooms in the old building (before we moved units) that she believes was haunted. This was the nicest room on the floor, and patients that were the sickest or expected to be hospitalized the longest were typically given that room. Simply by circumstance, it happened to be the room that had the most codes as well. Now, whether it was to just scare me because I was new at that point or if she really believed it, I still don’t know, but she was convinced that the spirit of one of the patient’s that passed away still hung around that room. She said one little boy in that room kept asking for an older boy to play with him. When his parents questioned more, he claimed it was the boy that came to visit him last night (nobody has visited the family the night before). That same nurse also said that was the room that they had to call engineering for the most frequently because of the lights malfunctioning, or the air being extra cold, or the paper towel dispenser spitting out paper towels randomly throughout the day. So I started to think of a room on our floor that may fall into that category. We have a large corner room that the nurses like to call the VIP room which fortunately or unfortunately, again, holds many of our sickest patients. Since I’ve worked there, we have had more deaths in that room than any, some being patients that we all adored. Although the thought is creepy, I wouldn’t mind be reminded of their spirit, just perhaps not in the middle of the night shift… do any other hospitals have rooms with similar circumstances?
Demeaning. Go to your nearest Halloween costume store to shop for a costume for an adult Halloween party and what do you find lining the shelves next to the barely-clothed Little Bo Peeps and the scantily dressed cop costumes? Naughty nurses of course. Yes, nursing is a profession that is heavily female dominated. And yes, nurses back in the day had to wear white uniforms that were oftentimes knee length skirts with stockings. And yes, some television shows portray the nursing profession as a bunch of women out to pick up the doctor at the hospital by batting their eyelashes. But why on earth do Halloween costumes have to be so demeaning for us? An unbuttoned lab coat with a red bra and panties underneath and a stethoscope around your neck does not make you a nurse. Costumes like this give the profession a bad stereotype, one that falls in tune with how TV portrays nursing. Granted, like I said previously, it’s not the only profession to fall victim to the slutty role at Halloween, but I wish people would show a little more respect.
What are some of the things that your hospitals do for Halloween to get you in the spirit?
Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.
By Nicole Lehr