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Toni Talks about PT Today

Christmas at the Hospital

Published December 14, 2010 3:55 PM by Toni Patt

Christmas in a hospital isn't much different from anywhere else. We put up a tree. We decorate the department. Formerly rigid dress codes are relaxed. Christmas-themed scrub tops are sported throughout the hospital. Santa hats, antlers and snowflake head bands become part of the daily scene. Singing Santas, dancing snowmen and the like appear at nurses' stations, minus the batteries, to help get us in the mood. Christmas treats materialize on a regular basis.

Yet, there are some differences. We refer to the holiday as Christmas, not a holiday. We wish our patients Merry Christmas. No one has ever complained to me that we have a Christmas tree prominently displayed on the floor. Nor has anyone complained about anything else. I've heard more comments asking when we were going to decorate than anything else. I think patients expect to see those things as the holiday nears. Decorating for Christmas is a huge part of the holiday. I think they'd be more upset if we didn't.

Not all of the differences are so positive. Some are just plain annoying. I realize I could easily be confused for Scrooge but some good intentions have unforeseen side effects. Hospitals don't have muzak. That doesn't mean everyone else has to compensate by playing non-stop Christmas music until the end of December. It becomes distracting and takes away from the purpose of the songs.

Holiday treats are another problem. They seem to accumulate in multiples of 10. I don't know which is worse. The piles of candy and cookies or listening to my coworkers explain why they can't eat any of it. The real problem develops when those goodies find their way to patients on restricted diets. Well-meaning friends and family bring treats but don't realize the possible adverse effects. Many of our patients didn't have good diets before so it takes little encouragement to try a cookie or cupcake.

To me, the worst are the holiday parties at lunch. I try to avoid them at all costs. The rehab department is large. In order to make things simple, we have one large party instead of a few smaller ones. Fine, except they schedule for one hour during lunch. The entire staff is expected to get in, get food, eat and be ready to return to work by 1:00. That isn't enough time. Last year I arrived late because I was with a patient. I never got any food. The line was so long I wouldn't have made it to the food by 1:00, much less had time to eat. I didn't even get a Christmas cookie.

This year, mandatory or not, I'm not going. There isn't enough time to finish things as it is. With the holidays, the hospital begins to provide little expressions of holiday cheer. These are scheduled during the day and in a place as inconvenient to my area as possible. Anyone who goes is off the floor for 10-15 minutes. Why is it that I always need the nurse who just left to get her Christmas cookie?

I can't wait until we're back to normal.

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