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‘Tis the season

For patients stuck in the hospital for Christmas, though, illness and injury can definitely be even more painful.

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Thanks to the classic Perry Como song, everyone knows that “there’s no place like home for the holidays.” But for millions of hospitalized patients and the hospital and clinic workers who care for them, being in their home for the holidays simply isn’t an option.

To ease the pain of being away during times usually spent at home surrounded by family, some hospitals have put in time and energy to make the holidays special for patients, their families and also the employees who take time away from home to come in to work.

In that spirit, healthcare organizations have started to pull out all the stops during the holiday season to bring some joy to patients, visitors and employees who spend that time inside the hospital.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest, most celebrated holidays in the US. It is all about food and gratitude. I have seen many hospitals incorporate both in their celebrations for family and staff.
One hospital gives all employees on all shifts a free meal featuring turkey and other foods traditionally served on Thanksgiving. Visitors are invited to partake in the free meal as well. Staff in the food service department prepare gigantic turkey sandwiches consisting of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and other fixings for Emergency Room staff who work overnight. Patients’ meals are themed for the holiday, too!

The Philippines is known for the longest Christmas season with the air filling with celebrations as early as September and sometimes end only when Valentine’s Day beckons.

For patients stuck in the hospital for Christmas, though, illness and injury can definitely be even more painful. In recent years, a few hospitals have made it a tradition to go above and beyond in the decorations department for Christmas. For a confined patient or staff at work during the Christmas season, it certainly means a lot to bring the holiday cheer outside into the hospital, their “home for the holidays.”

A giant Christmas tree rich with the merriest ornaments, candy canes, wrapped presents underneath the tree, nativity scene or our traditional Belen, Santa Claus, even choral groups bringing cheer with sounds of the season are a common holiday scene in some hospitals today.

For patients with no dietary restrictions, Christmas and New Year’s lunch or dinner consists of ham and “queso de bola” trimmed with some Christmas décor and holiday greeting from management and staff.

I distinctly remember one Christmas season. A grade school teacher was admitted with end stage cancer condition in a hospital. The staff sought out the grade school Glee Club where she taught, and invited them to sing Christmas carols in the lobby of that hospital. The teacher, along with hospital visitors, filled the lobby, enjoying the beautiful harmony of 50 kids wearing red Santa hats. Then one of the kids came forward, to dedicate a special number to the teacher who sat in her wheel chair with a couple of IV tubes. The song, “Give Love on Christmas Day” left a roomful of men and women sobbing, with emotions running at high gear, all feeling the love. It’s a scene I and many others will never forget.

Other holidays and special events are celebrated — but those are for other columns to come.

Of course, while it’s easy to get carried away during the holidays, hospital staff must remember to keep the needs of the patient at the top of the list.

But having said that, with patient satisfaction scores becoming more prominent and meaningful to hospitals’ bottom lines, the trend of making holidays in the hospital happier is sure to continue.

For any hospital that truly wants to provide patient and family-centered care, celebrating holidays is an absolute must.

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With over 30 years of experience in patient care, healthcare marketing, business development and hospital operations, Marilen Tronqued-Lagniton is a Certified Lead Auditor for ISO 9001:2015. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from St. Theresa’s College in QC, Philippines; completed the MBA for Healthcare Administrators at the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA; Completed the Patient Safety Officer Course, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) & Harvard School of Public Health (T.H. Chan) in Cambridge, MA; Completed the Advanced Leadership Program for C-Suite Leaders, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Email: [email protected]

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