Blog

Christmas Kindness on the Wards

Monday December 23, 2019

Dr Megge Beacroft, Co-Chair, AMA (WA) Doctors in Training Committee

There are a few things that can make working the wards difficult at Christmas – being separated from family and friends, giving bad news to patients during the holidays, and often putting in some extra hours to cover for leave and public holiday staffing.

These are all things that are easily endured, however, when we remember the patients that got us into medicine in the first place.

Unfortunately, some of the pressures of the modern hospital environment can also multiply at Christmas time and it is easy to lose sight of our most important motivation.

Reduced staffing means extra shifts, with some of our DiTs going well over 80 hours per week in December. Some haven’t had a day off in weeks, while others have been months without a free weekend to spend with family. Some will have to tell patients that this will be their last Christmas, or that their loved one has had an accident and their lives will never be the same.

In addition, the closing of wards and elective operating lists can mean increased bed pressure and large pending OT lists with unhappy cancelled patients at the end of every day. Increased alcohol and drug use can mean some patients may not be easy to deal with and others can be downright dangerous. EDs are still ramping, mental health ED days remain high, and bed and flow pressures continue to dominate the medical workday.

The particular pressures of the season have led to much angst on the wards and among specialties with a lot of fatigued DiTs feeling particularly vulnerable of late.

While most of us have very little control over the things that contribute to the added stress on the wards during this time of the year, we can at least be kind to one another.

Remember, despite the bed pressures and bad news and upset patients that we all entered medicine for the same reason – to serve our patients – and are all in it to this end together.

So if you are around the hospital in the coming weeks, first, thank you for all of your hard work. Second, look for that opportunity to show kindness. Ask a DiT or colleague what they are up to next year and offer some mentorship. Teach someone something. Give positive feedback. You will feel better for it – even as you stare down the clock as the “disco shift” begins!