Holidays in the Hospital: Making them Meaningful
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Holidays in the Hospital: Making them Meaningful

The hospital is nobody’s idea of the Happy Holidaysbest place to spend a holiday. But as much as everyone would prefer to be home celebrating, there are patients needing care every day of the year.  By expressing caring in ways that can be felt, you can ease a patient’s holiday hospitalization. Share a meaningful moment with family members who have had their holiday disrupted by an illness or accident. Empathize with coworkers who are also missing their family and friends. In this way, holidays in the hospital can be seen as opportunities for connecting and offering compassion to people when they need it most.

Turn up the warmth. Smile. Say a kind word. Go out of your way to help someone. This can be done every day of the year—because every day may be a holiday, birthday or other special day for some patients!

Be sensitive to differences. Don’t assume anyone is celebrating a given national, cultural or religious holiday. Patients and staff alike represent diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Follow the patient’s lead.

Ask and listen. Ask patients if there is anything you can do to make their stay better. Ask family members to suggest ways to ease or cheer up their loved one’s holiday hospitalization.

Creatively accommodate. If patients or families have a request or suggestion, see if you can help it be realized. “Sure, Billy can hang a stocking on the foot of his bed.” If there are hospital policy issues, try to find alternatives. “I’m sorry I can’t let you light candles in the room—it’s a fire hazard—but you can set up a small electric Hanukkah menorah.”

Make a festive environment. Decorate the lobby. Ask patients if they would like to hang up decorations in their room.

Inform about services. Let patients and families know about any spiritual care services your hospital offers, such as chaplains or worship rooms. If patients express interest, give them more detailed information. “Would you like me to ask the chaplain to stop by?” “The worship rooms on the ground floor are open between 8 am and 8 pm. Would you like an attendant to bring you there?”

Draw on volunteers. Compile a contact list of groups in your community which may be able to offer services to patients. School groups or local choirs may be happy to put on a show in the lobby. If a patient asks about celebrating a certain holiday you will know who to turn to. “Mrs. Demetriou, your son said you celebrate the Orthodox Christmas in January. We have the number of a local Greek Orthodox priest. Should I arrange for him to visit you?”

Pamper staff. Do something special for those working holiday shifts. Put out treats in the staff room. Organize a gift exchange. Get staff input on holiday scheduling. Try to let everyone have off at least one holiday which is important to them. Thank staff for working, even if they have no choice. Offer incentives for those working on major holidays.

With a little thought and effort, we as caregivers can make holidays in the hospital a remarkable experience for patients, families and employees.

I welcome your comments below.

Categories: Caring and Empathy, Patient Experience Strategies, Patient-Family Engagement


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