Beware the Holiday Hospital

It’s almost Christmas which means your already-hard-working staff is now working holiday shifts. It’s always a balance between maintaining high-quality care and leaving a little space and time for some lighthearted festivities.

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 four existed 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, on weekends, or Christmas Day.

I’ve worked as a nurse on the PM, night shifts, and day shifts. I can tell you each shift had its own pace and set of responsibilities. Holidays could be a bit more relaxed and allow for a bit of festivity.

Carving Out Room for the Holiday

With Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, it’s time to tune in to your team and set the tone for the holidays. Now, more than ever with staffing issues and high census, it’s important to stay connected to the team working through the holidays. Do they have what they need? Will they be seeing you (their leader) on the holidays? How will you show your appreciation? After all, they are sacrificing time at home with family. Helping them make the most of working over the holidays is key. 

While you want to make sure that the patient experience remains positive, high quality, and trust-generating, there is still room for sharing the holiday spirit among those dedicated associates who are covering the holiday shifts.

As a nurse, I have fond memories of our holiday potlucks, secret Santa, and white elephant gift exchanges. The break room was usually full of goodies and offered a nice reprieve from the hustle of the unit. These are all important for building camaraderie and engagement.

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

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