Every nurse knows that holidays are far from sacrosanct when you work in healthcare. Patients in ICU can’t be left to fend for themselves. Those in long-term care don’t magically get well and go home. ERs must remain open to receive the steady stream of people who’ve flambéed themselves while trying to deep-fry a turkey. So, even during the season of good cheer, nurses routinely give up time with their families to fulfill their duties at work. They do have to get creative to improvise a celebration in a dreary hospital. Here are a few stories our readers shared about what they’ve been up to over the holidays in years gone by.
Food and Décor
When you’re a nurse, you make use of whatever you can to enjoy your Christmas. That might mean using an irrigation syringe as a turkey baster or tongue blades in lieu of forks to eat a spiral sliced ham. An IV rack hung with lights and TED hose stuffed with candy canes wouldn’t pass muster with any serious decorating committee, but Lisa Renninger made it work at her job. Patients really do appreciate any effort; just ask Kim Battern, who made red and green finger Jell-O for patients in the hospital on full liquids. She says it was a big hit!
Gifts and Cheer
If nurses get the holiday blues not being able to spend time with family, imagine how much worse it is to spend that time in the hospital as a patient. They need extra care to keep from getting down in the dumps. Erica Andersen says she “scrounged the unit for Christmas presents for a patient whose family bailed on her for Christmas at the last minute. I’ve never seen such appreciation on the face of someone unwrapping a new toothbrush and a bottle of lilac-scented shampoo.”
Rob R. Martin kept it jolly last year on Christmas Eve by playing Santa. As the only male charge RN on duty, he got volunteered for the part. Rob put on a happy face, donned the suit and delivered gifts to all the children. Turns out, the experience was well worth it. “You should have seen the eyes of the kids in PICU light up. PEDS also loved it. I was glad to do it and help out…families appreciated the gesture for sure!”
Acts of Kindness
Nurses are always known for their warm hearts, but this special time of year may offer unique opportunities to reach out to those in need—even our furry friends. Melissa Ann Graham-Bailey tells a tale that would make Charles Dickens proud: “One New Year’s Eve, it was bitterly cold out. Around 23:00 a tiny dog showed up, looking inside through the ambulance doors. We brought him in, put him in the ‘Quiet Room,’ fed him and gave him a warm bed for the night. We ushered him out at daybreak before the day shift could find him!”
Unfortunately, sometimes the urge to spread holiday cheer can backfire. Cathy Hewitt Windham learned this lesson the hard way: “I made some sugar-free candy trees for my patients. I put the candy on a Styrofoam cone. In the middle of a quiet night shift, I hear ‘Ouch, ouch, ouch!’ My patient had taken all the candies off the tree and they were in the bed along with the pins! Next time I will put them on with tape!”
Fun, Games…and Other Stuff
Getting snowed in doesn’t put a damper on the spirits of our intrepid readers. Rachel Petersen says she and her colleagues went sledding using backboards. She didn’t mention whether anyone ended up needing one for real after such daring stunts….
Debbie Thomsen wins the prize for the craziest way to enjoy a holiday. She claims to have spent one Thanksgiving doing CRT on a penis wrapped in ice and an Ace wrap. Let’s hope that doesn’t become a family tradition!