Nursing at Christmas

Christmas is a poignant time of year for me in many different ways.

This will be the 15th year that I have spent Christmas with my work family. Even though I’m in no way religious or affiliate myself with any religion Christmas to me means family time. I now realise how precious this is.

My first Christmas working I remember it started as a rather festive affair, people dressed with tinsel, played festive tunes and everyone was in jovial spirits. This changed shortly after our morning break, there was a pre alert for a person from an RTC, she was about 25 years old and had an accident on her way to spend Christmas with her family. She was also around 36 weeks pregnant. She had been trapped in a vehicle and by the time she had been released her heart stopped beating. She came to us in cardiac arrest, we worked hard but were unable to get her back, we continued to resuscitate while the Obstetric team performed surgery in the ED to deliver her a beautiful baby girl who also sadly died. I didn’t know her name or age or what had actually happened. The nurse in charge delivered the news to her family. The team were destroyed.

That year because I was working, my family decided to go away for Christmas without me, so I went home to an empty home and cried myself to sleep. It had a profound effect on all the team but I think when I look back now the greatest lessons I learned was about love and family.

Christmas since then has never been the same for me, It’s not important in terms of the religious connotations but it is the one time of the year where family spend time together. Often being a nurse automatically rules me out of spending time with family, over time I have missed weddings and christenings and parties because of being committed to my work, but I always try to make more of an effort to spend some time with my family at Christmas.

Nowadays Christmas in the ED is absolutely no different to any other day at work for me. I’ll work 12.5 hours and in that time I’m guaranteed to see at least one case that makes me cry as well as one that makes me smile! I’ll spend time with the elderly man who has no family and diagnose him with loneliness, I’ll fix a stupid injury ….. last year that award went to the 78 year old man that hurt his shoulder doing a roly poly to impress his grandkids! They’ll be someone drunk, several people with stomach pain after over indulging but there’ll still be lots of love no matter what!

This year has been incredibly difficult for the healthcare system, targets aren’t being met throughout the UK, NHS in debt causing real terms funding cuts, resources scare. It is an incredibly difficult place to work. I wouldn’t like to be the new nurse nowadays. I am constantly questioning whether staying in nursing is the right thing for me. I’ve given the best years of my life to the profession I loved 20 years ago but it is now so highly critical and increasingly more difficult to work in. Governed by people who have never set foot in the department I work. I know that I don’t have the support I had when I first started and I’m also not able to offer the same support to my juniors. One day I’ll decide what is best for me. What I can say though is that despite the politics every single person I work with just wants to do their best for the patients that need us but I do realise how hard it is!

Tragedy happens all year round but it always seems to have an impact around Christmas. This year think of the doctors and nurses who have to deliver bad news, the ones that are trying to save lives and the bureaucracy that they are having to work with which is making it more and more difficult to do their jobs effectively!

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