The holidays can be a time of great joy and yes sorrow. As nurses, we are often witness to the hardships and miracles that the season can bring. I recently had the pleasure of attending an annual holiday function that highlighted the great joy our faculty find in each other’s company. It was through this time I spent with my colleagues that I was able to gather stories from our time working as nurses. All of these stories serve a purpose. Some help to highlight the spirit of the season and others help to remind us of our humanity.
Several individuals shared their stories about working as nurses in the community. Nurses working in the community are often isolated and so are their clients. One person shared that she enjoyed working on Christmas because “there was this connection, we were both on our own and I knew that I might be the only other person that client saw that day.” Another nurse shared their most memorable moment from home care where they were “asked to share a Christmas lunch with a lonely elderly couple. I arrived just before 12 and was literally probed (with 2 canes) to the already set and decorated table. This was a complete surprise and although it was against policy, I could not bring myself not to comply with these wishes. We had a wonderful (and short) time.”
The holidays can be a special time and a time of creativity. The pediatric and maternity nurses can exemplify this. One of the nurses I know well shared that one of her children was born on Christmas day. She had an exemplary experience throughout the labor and delivery, and her child was gently placed into a bright red stocking to help make the day even more special. The staff at St. Boniface always ensure that any baby born on Christmas receives a cute crocheted Santa hat. The peds units can be empty during the holidays as most of the kids that can be discharged or out on pass are away. For those kids who have to stay, the nurses try very hard to make sure they have a wonderful day. Santa comes to each child and hand delivers a gift. This same nurse remembers rolling out the TV and movie player in the hallway on Christmas Eve and having a movie night with all the kids on the unit.
Finally, one nurse shared a memorable Christmas moment where a child who had a recent transplant had to celebrate separated from their siblings by a glass door. The siblings had received a chicken pox vaccine and could not come in contact with their brother/sister, so the family made the best of things half on one side of the glass door, half on the other. This nurse remembers this very vividly stating “at one point the younger sister was kissing the glass that separated her from her sibling, this was just so touching to see. This goes to show that Christmas is what you make of it.”
This creativity can be found in care of adults as well. Some staff in a Long Term Care home had a tradition of putting out Christmas stockings, filled with small gifts for the residents. The staff would then gather around excited to see the residents open their gifts, and one of the HCAs would dress up like Santa. “It was magical.” In the ER, the staff would make up stockings and put them in all the rooms. The first patients to arrive on Christmas to those rooms would get those stockings.
Nurses who work with vulnerable clients can often appreciate the delicacy of life. The sorrow of a patient passing is magnified during special times of the year. Patients living with life limiting illness can teach us so much about finding joy in the small stuff in life. For example, in one Winnipeg hospice, the patients each received a special holiday themed decorative pillow. These pillows were placed in each room with care. The patients lit up with joy as they discovered their new pillow. Care for those in need can leave a lasting impression on us as caregivers. Many nurses have those memories that have a profound effect on us. One nurse remembered a time when she was called into work in the recovery room on Christmas. A patient who had just come from the OR to the recovery room was not expected to make it. She stated, “I spent the day consoling the family, I will never forget this moment.” Another colleague shared their story of a “Christmas miracle” from the SICU. This patient was the only patient on the 10 bed unit. The patient was greatly impacted by a CVA but over the course of the day made a huge recovery.
I would like to thank everyone for sharing their holiday memories. It is my hope that you all take time to enjoy the finer things in life. Hold dear to those that you love and enjoy the small stuff too.
Corrina Zacharkiw RN MN and the Public Relations Committee
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