During the most challenging time of year for patients and their families in the University of Iowa Hospital’s Pediatric Emergency Department , ED nurse Joe Schmuecker, RN, has gone above and beyond to spread a little holiday cheer over the last five years.

Every Christmas, Schmuecker sets up a homemade red mailbox for children in the pediatric department to send letters to the North Pole. Then, Schmuecker and a team of his colleagues answer every letter.

For Schmuecker, it’s a chance to connect with patients and bring a little joy within the stress of a hospital visit.

Daily Nurse is proud to name Joe Schmuecker our Nurse of the Week for his dedication to positively impacting his young patients and helping to spread joy throughout the holiday season.

Schmuecker says he wants to give kids a sense of normalcy in the hospital.

“This whole project started to bring out the holiday spirit in our department and to create some positive moments with patients and their families,” he says.

He expects 75-100 letters to be stuffed in the mailbox each year. The letters ask for the child’s name, age, what presents are on their wish list, and – most importantly – if they should be on the naughty or the nice list.

Schmuecker says the team has gotten the replies down to about five minutes each, but when they fill out a full page, it’s not just a quick response. It’s a very thoughtful letter responding to what the kids said. And then, if he got to work with that patient, they throw some things in there that would make it more personal and believable for them.

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“The letters that stand out to me the most are the ones where the child checks the ‘I’ve been naughty’ box, though the kids do have a chance to explain why they think they’ve been naughty,” says Schmuecker. “There are also the letters that ask for selfless acts, like having their sibling not be sick. Those messages stay with you.”

Nominate a Nurse of the Week! Every Wednesday, DailyNurse.com features a nurse making a difference in the lives of their patients, students, and colleagues. We encourage you to nominate a nurse who has impacted your life as the next Nurse of the Week, and we’ll feature them online and in our weekly newsletter. 

Renee Hewitt
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