Written by Ruth Underdown
Nurse & Nurses.co.uk Specialist Writer
It's the most wonderful time of the year...
At Christmas, even in the NHS where we fire fight on an hourly basis for beds and our patient's needs, there is still an element of seasonal spirit wherever you go.
Christmas trees and shiny decorations adorn ward spaces despite infection control attempting to douse the spirit with warnings over tinsel; "You can only use it if you laminate it" I was once told by the infection control nurse with a wry smile.
Each Christmas, hospitals generally try to get as many people home as possible so they can spend time with their loved ones. Let's face it, no one wants to be in hospital at any time of the year, least of all at Christmas.
But what about the staff?
Working the holidays is an accepted part of the nursing profession. We give up high days and holidays to make sure our patients are cared for. It's the nature of the job.
Office workers can abandon their workplace for a 7-10 day period, but if you want Christmas off in nursing? You're going to have to lose New Year, or vice versa.
But actually, working Christmas isn't so bad (I never felt anyway). The shifts tend to feel lighter. There is more merriment and if you have a good ward or unit manager, they've usually arranged a stash of goodies to see the nursing staff through the festive period.
In one unit I worked in, the staff had a tradition of best Christmas jumper on Christmas day with a prize for the winner. This was always a subject of fierce competition amongst the staff over who could get the tackiest, brightest jumper.
And then there is new year. Working in North London in the early noughties in the A&E department, New Year's Eve would see a virtually empty unit until around 23:30, at which point the ambulances would start arriving.
The trolleys would fill with patients of all ages who had over indulged, and the evening would progress into a night of tipping people into the recovery position, siting and hanging fluids, and neuro observations.
By 7am, most would be in a reasonable state to send on their way. It was an inevitability we accepted as part of our A&E life; granted, not an acceptable use of resources, but necessary when people are too drunk to safely maintain their airways, or have added something else to the alcohol and festivity mix.
Even in today's darkest hours of short staffing and poor funding, nursing and medical staff country (and world) wide will be heading out to the same job they do every day. They will hopefully get to enjoy their Christmas and New Year in the days that follow once their shift has ended.
But until then, there is a job to be done.