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What it’s like to work on Christmas Day


I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday season celebrating with too much food and good company.

Like many of my fellow health care workers, I celebrated Christmas and New Year’s away from my family.

Now everyone has probably heard a shift worker, from the health industry or other, complain that shift work means they miss out on celebrating special occasions, like Christmas, New Year and Easter, with their family and friends.

But today I want to talk about how working on these special occasions as a nurse is actually a great privilege.

For me, Christmas is a time of giving and I couldn’t think of a better gift to give than a little TLC and good health. And whilst I couldn’t spend Christmas with my own family, I had the great privilege of celebrating it with 15 families and my colleagues at Palliative Care.

Christmas is a really special time at Palliative Care.

Firstly for the staff who go to all lengths to embrace the festive season – wearing Christmas scrubs, Christmas ribbons & headbands, flashing Christmas brooches, singing Christmas carols and dancing down the hallways (or maybe that was just me?) and of course decking out the facility in beautiful decorations (I’ll take this moment to boast that PCU won the Christmas Cheer Award for Peninsula Health’s Golf Links Road Campus – Congratulations team!  

And Secondly for our patients and their families for welcoming us into their family, sharing with us stories of their Christmas traditions and showering us in gratitude and love.

For the last 6 weeks every time I have walked into the staff room, the table has been spread with a banquet of fruit mince pies, chocolates, shortbreads, fruit cakes and gingerbread houses, all accompanied by cards with a heartfelt thank-you for the care we have provided loved ones.

There is a great sense of fulfilment when you walk onto your shift to have a family member stop you in the hallway to wrap their arms around you and say, with a smile on their face, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” despite the testing time they are facing.

There is an even greater sense of fulfilment when your patient’s face lights up and says “I’m so pleased you are looking after me at Christmas!”

And maybe it is just me, but the love and gratitude from my patients and their families is the greatest Christmas gift I could receive.

So sure, celebrating Christmas morning with my family over skype was a first and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss being in a food coma by midday and playing bocce in the backyard. However missing those traditions didn’t ruin my Christmas. It was different, but filled my Christmas with even more cheer, gratitude and love – the way Christmas should be.