We all bring in food to share, and lay a big spread out on the balcony and we transform the department into a brightly coloured happy place with decorations everywhere. We wear our Christmas scrubs, Santa hats and reindeer ears and everyone is happy with a festive mood in the air.
However, the day is often marked by sadness and regret too.
You see, most of us cross our fingers and hope that we will be the lucky ones who have the day at home with our own families. When the roster is finalised and we see our names blazoned across that little square, the time of negotiations begins: “Can we move present opening until I get home at 4pm?” I asked my mother one year, before ultimately conceding that isn’t fair to anyone else.
“Should we skip seeing your parents this year and stay local, it’s just too exhausting travelling between night shifts…” I hear a colleague saying to her husband. Yes, working Christmas requires sacrifice and concessions from the health care and admin staff. But honestly, we love caring for you and your families and it is a pleasure to share Christmas with you.
Watch: Things nurses never say. Post continues below.
Some of my favourite Christmas Day memories at work involve assisting patients to celebrate the day with their families and help them feel just a little more ‘normal’ in this sterile and regimented environment. One year I was able to facilitate the extubating (removal of the breathing tube that attaches to the ventilator and controls a patient’s breathing) of a patient who had been with us for several weeks.
He was awake and had been writing on a communication board. As Christmas approached, he expressed how important it was that he be able to speak to his family on video chat on Christmas Day. He told me that he was a first-time grandfather and had not met his grandson yet as he had been with us in ICU when the baby was born.