Beware the Holiday Hospital

Posted by Kristin Baird on December 17th, 2019 • No Comments »

Years ago, I heard a healthcare leader talk about the four hospitals within every hospital. He said that there was the daytime hospital, the nighttime hospital, the weekend hospital, and the holiday hospital. He went on to say that, while all were in the same facility, each operated differently with its own set of cultural norms and related practices. In other words, what you see at 11:00 am may not be the same as what you experience at 11:00 PM or on a weekend or Christmas day.

Having worked on the PM and night shifts,  as well as days, I can tell you that, in my experience, each shift had its own pace and set of responsibilities. That isn’t to imply one delivered any less quality. I will say there was a marked difference on weekends. Things seemed to relax a little without the presence of administration. The holidays became more relaxed as well.

With Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s just around the corner, it’s time to tune into expectations for your team over the holidays. You want to make sure that every patient experience remains positive, high quality, and trust-generating. While still sharing holiday spirit among those dedicated associates who cover the holiday shifts.

As a nurse, I have fond memories of our holiday potlucks, secret Santa, and white elephant gift exchanges. The break room full of goodies offering reprieve from the hustle of the unit. These are all important elements of building camaraderie that contribute to engagement but must be balanced with the patient and visitor experience.

Being a Patient

While I can share many fond memories of working during the holiday festivities, I have also been a patient over the Christmas holiday. It was just a few years ago when I had surgery on December 22nd. I remember lying on my back, waiting to go into surgery when “Santa” (one of the surgeons in full Santa suit) came through the day surgery unit shouting, “HO, HO, HO”. Santa dragged the wagon full of gifts for the staff. There was a lot of laughter and hugs. Which was nice for the staff but poor timing to do this in the presence of patients going to or coming from, surgery. Those of us heading into surgery were nervous, and sometimes wondering about delays. Those patients coming back from surgery were often in pain and trying to come back to reality.

The celebration was not only loud, but it became the focus of staff attention while we patients sat by. At one point during my post-op vitals check, the nurse’s reindeer-antler hat with flashing lights erupted in a loud, holiday version of the song “Shout”. I was hurting from the surgery and had a headache. The sound and flashing lights made me feel worse. The nurses in the room all laughed and sang along with the song.

No Grinch

I am no Grinch. Now, I love the holidays as much, or more than the next person, but learned an important lesson after being a holiday patient. I enjoyed seeing a festive atmosphere. But I needed the staff’s professional attention and compassion for my physical and emotional state.

Encourage your team to enjoy the holiday spirit. Always – always keep the patients’ needs at the center of every action. Make sure your “Holiday Hospital” delivers on the brand promise just as well as any other day.

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Baird Consulting


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