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How to Cheer Up Patients During the Holidays

How to Cheer Up Patients During the Holidays

The holidays can be tough for a lot of people. So imagine what it’s like when you’re in the hospital or a skilled nursing/rehab facility at this festive time. Patients would probably like to be anywhere else. We asked some nurses for tips on what other nurses can do to help cheer up their patients. They gave us some great answers…

“I am a geriatric nursing assistant, and we normally make sure that our patients are involved in the activities provided by the activities department. They would have musicians and comedy performers who would put on great shows. The worst for the resident or patient is after hours when there wasn’t anything going on. That’s when we just spend a little extra time with them—let them talk about their memories of holidays and family. We would put up decorations in their rooms. The most important thing to remember is they are alone, and try to shower them with as much kindness as possible.”
—Karen Gum, GNA

“Wear festive things: scrub tops, red/green beads, reindeer antlers, or elf and Santa hats.”
—Connie O’Malley, RN

“Keep them busy so that they don’t dwell on it.”
—Jennifer Lowe, NP

“I’m not a nurse, but I’ve worked in healthcare for 25 years. Decorate their rooms with a small tree and make sure it has lights. Cute Christmas PJs and socks (the non-slip kind), candy and treats to eat and share with the staff. Hand-held or card games, a cute throw for their beds are always fun. Anything shiny and bright—especially unique stuff that staff will gush over when they come in the room. Patients love things that play music. Decorate their doors with wrapping paper and a blow. Have someone come in to do their nails and hair if the service isn’t available at the facility. They love pretty Christmas sweaters and jewelry. And those necklaces with little Christmas bulbs that light up—and can be found at the dollar store—are a big hit!”
—Kim Reynolds

“The nurses in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit always go above and beyond, but during this time of year, we go even further to ensure we keep up the holiday spirit. We donate essential items and toys to the families in the greatest need, sing songs with the children, and provide fun activities through our Child Life program.”
—Elizabeth Southard, RN, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

“I try to joke with the patient and keep it cheerful and positive if appropriate for the situation. If they’re really down, I like to offer a hug and any other distraction I can offer.”—Crystal Adams, BSN, RN, IU Health West Hospital

“I think this pertains to every day, but especially during the holidays—Stay truthful and compassionate. Let them know you are not there to judge them, but you are there if they need to talk. The truth can be painful, but helps us to help them.”
—Theresa Castro, LPN, Detox Nurse at Solutions Recovery Treatment Center

“I ask the patient has made a Christmas wish. Sometimes they tell me the wish and sometimes they don’t. When family members bring in treats, I make sure they’re set up to enjoy them.”
—Cheryl Johnson, RN, IU Health West Hospital

“I sit outside with the clients after evening medication and tell them stories of the ridiculous Christmas gifts I would get from my mother each year. We would each cheese puffs; clients would share their funny stories, and we’d laugh all night until our faces hurt.”
—Donna Robinson-McWilliams, LPN, Staff Nurse at River Oaks Treatment Center

Talking Turkey: What Nurses Do When Working on Thanksgiving

Talking Turkey: What Nurses Do When Working on Thanksgiving

Working on Thanksgiving can be great—extra pay and often a quiet day. But it can also make nurses wish they were home with their families.

We decided to ask nurses what they do to celebrate Thanksgiving when they do have to work. They told us what they do with their “work” families.

When Doria Musaga, RN, was working as a nurse, she said that the hospital would provide them with a free meal. But since it was, as she calls it, “the pressed turkey thing,” she adds that “it was dinner all the same and free.” She and her coworkers would often bring in more homemade foods to add to it.

“I have worked on the OB unit at two hospitals since I became a nurse. Usually, the hospital provides turkey for each nursing unit, and each staff member prepares a side dish to enjoy. Patients can choose to order a turkey dinner for their meal from food service. We give thanks for our healthy moms and babies. For the families being dismissed that day, we try to expedite the process so they can enjoy celebrating with extended family.”

—Lois Williams, RN, MN, RDMS

“I don’t work holidays any longer but my staff usually plan a feast with each one bringing some home-cooked part of the meal. The hospital usually provides a holiday meal, but rarely on the actual holiday–usually several days before.”

Lisa Fiorello RN, BSN, CCRN, RN-BC

“We would bring in pot luck snacks for Thanksgiving but we also scheduled shorter shifts to be home part of the day and rotated it year to year.”

—Janine McCowan, RN

“Everybody brings a dish in. We have a unit thanksgiving dinner during the shift.”

—Barbara Benzing Smith, RN

“You celebrate and give thanks with your work family as you would at home. Always be Thankful! Everyone brings a dish!”

—Cheryl Murad, RN

“At some places I worked, we would all bring a dish of food and have an open buffet so everyone to could get something on their break.”

—Theresa Zubrowski Woodson, RN

“I always had my own ‘Kristie’s (Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter/etc.)’ with my family. At work, we always did a pot luck–usually it’s not quite as busy, and we could enjoy ourselves.”

—Kristie Davalli, CRNP

“We have pot lucks, and every one brings a dish to share.”

—Kristen Corkran, RN

“When I had to work Thanksgiving, my family would take sympathy on me, I never had to cook nor clean and had dinner waiting for me when I got home.”

—Estelle Schwarz, RN

5 Tips for Beating Holiday Burnout

5 Tips for Beating Holiday Burnout

Between work, fewer daylight hours, and the fast-approaching holiday season, it’s easy to experience burnout this time of year. If you’re feeling resentful, unfulfilled, exhausted, or bored of your job, these are your body’s warning signs that it’s time to make some changes—fast! Check out the following tips to reduce stress and beat holiday burnout.

1. Take inventory of your work-life balance.

Chances are good your work-life balance has gotten out of whack. When you’re home, are you able to disengage from work? Or, do you find yourself continually thinking about your job even when you’re not there? How’s your sleep, or your exercise regimen? If you’re overly focused on work and neglecting the activities that enhance your life, now is the time to reevaluate how you spend your time. Try shifting your attention to the things that increase your energy and sense of optimism, as opposed to drain or diminish them.

2. Immerse yourself in self-care.

As natural-born caregivers, it’s almost standard practice to put other people’s needs before your own. But if you want to beat burnout, it’s essential you incorporate a variety of strategies to help you unwind, relax, and rest each day. Maybe there’s a novel you’ve been excited to read? Or, perhaps you’ve been craving some time immersed in nature? Find whatever it is that de-stresses you and carve out some time for yourself. If need be, mark it on your calendar, and make these self-care activities non-negotiable. To combat burnout, you must continually recharge your mental, physical, and spiritual battery.

3. Set boundaries and stick to them.

This time of year, it’s almost a given that you’ll be tempted to overextend yourself in some way. But the more depleted you become, the closer you’re inching toward full-blown burnout. Set your boundaries for your work and home life and stick to them, even if you’re concerned you might be letting others down. Simply put, you can’t function well if you’re running on empty or ignoring the parameters you’ve set in place to revive you.

4. If you can take time off, consider doing it.    

Nursing is a 24/7 job, and patients’ health needs don’t stop just because the holidays are approaching. Knowing that others depend on you can create a sense of pressure that makes you feel like you can’t take time off. However, if you have the option to use some of your vacation time, consider doing it. Time away from work will help you feel less overwhelmed and more rejuvenated. Plus, you don’t need to travel if you don’t have the time or money; planning a short staycation might be just the thing you need to rest up.

5. Attend a continuing education class.

If you’re like me, your email inbox is flooded with a list of end-of-the-year sales for continuing education courses. There’s nothing quite like learning a new skill or deepening your understanding of an existing technique to re-invigorate your nursing practice and know that you’re helping your patients to the best of your abilities, and you’re combating burnout in the process!