No one wants to be hospitalized over the holidays. We all know that hospitalization is disruptive as it is, but during the holidays, it adds another emotional layer for patients.
Holidays are all about traditions, friends, and family. Being hospitalized or having a loved one hospitalized is an interruption of tradition that leaves a palpable gap for both the patient and family members. Someone is missing from the circle at home, and the patient feels a loss that a call or visit just cannot fill. Nurses and other caregivers become even more important to the patients and families during these periods.
This year marks the first holidays without my mother – the matriarch and keeper of sacred family traditions. But to add to that gap is my sister’s absence as well. Elizabeth has been hospitalized for four weeks now. What should have been a one week hospitalization has been extended due to multiple complications. Our family has been dealing with the stress of having her in and out of critical care for the past four weeks and have worked hard to have someone by her side every day. This is particularly challenging given that she is in a hospital that’s a four hour drive from home, yet family and friends have taken turns staying by her side through her rocky recovery. It’s not like a 10 minute drive where we can drop in for a quick visit. In order to coordinate time with her, every one of us has to stay in hotels in order to be with her over several days.
Thank God for compassionate nurses and other caregivers who understand the struggles we are facing and the strain this places on both Elizabeth and our entire family. Each and every day they take our calls and include us in bedside shift reports. They know that despite the date on the calendar, they are the link to Elizabeth.
These wonderful caregivers also have families and holiday traditions that don’t include working on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. And yet there they are, giving their best to patients and families. They are empathetic to the loss we are feeling and understand that they are filling a much bigger role than the clinician. They are a vital link to Elizabeth every day but over the holidays they will help fill another void.
If you are a leader, thank your nurses and all the staff who are working over the holidays. Remind them that they are filling a huge void for both the families and patients. If you are one of the caregivers working this holiday season, thank you for being there for all of us who can’t.