Imagine waking up after surgery to see an elf hovering over you and someone else at the bedside wearing blinking reindeer antlers. Would it instill confidence that your surgery had been successful or leave you wondering where in the world you landed? At the risk of being called a Scrooge, I must speak up on behalf of the patients being served in hospitals and clinics during the holiday season. I’m all for staff and physicians sharing some “holiday cheer.” After all, you probably spend more waking hours with your co-workers than you do your own family. But I must point out that too many holiday festivities may cause staff to take their focus off of the patient, leading to a poor experience.
A few years ago I had foot surgery right before Christmas. I was nervous about the procedure and had actually put it off a bit too long. Arriving for the surgery, I noticed that the holiday décor was very tasteful, but didn’t overwhelm the professional appearance of the hospital. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the person at registration and the volunteer who escorted me to outpatient surgery area. But once inside that unit, I felt like more of a party crasher than the focus of the staff’s attention. One nurse had jingle bells tied to her shoes which made plenty of noise as she moved from one room to the next. I normally love the sound of jingle bells but when coming out of anesthesia, it was obnoxious and disorienting. My admitting nurse wore singing antlers on her head with a blinking necklace. The song played over and over during my half day on the unit. I’m not sure if it was the anesthesia that caused my headache or her doggone singing hat. I’m also prone to migraines so the blinking lights were very irritating.
While waiting for transport to take me to the OR, I saw 2 elves rolling a wagon through the department singing and tossing out small gifts to the staff. There was lots of fun going on around me but little attention being paid to me or any of the other patients. The focus was on the festivities and we (the patients) happened to be there.
Encourage your staff to enjoy the season but to keep in mind that patients must remain the focus of their attention at all times. Everything the patient comes in contact with must instill confidence. Holiday or not – you’re still on stage.