“The most chaotic night of the year”: Healthcare over the holidays, part 4
A series on what it’s like to work the festive season. Our fourth installment: The holiday rush.
What’s it like to work in an emergency room over Christmas and New Year’s? We asked the more than 500,000 healthcare professionals on Figure 1, our global case-sharing platform over the weekend of Dec. 5–6, 2015. Here are some of their best replies.
It’s stressful and frustrating being away from family members when it may be their last Christmas or New Year’s Eve. While everyone is enjoying a glass of champagne and lighting up some firecrackers, the surgeons are putting the bits and pieces of human beings back together. This night is perhaps the most chaotic night of the year. We have firework accidents, drunk-driver car accidents, more car accidents due to the frost, combinations of the former mentioned, and a couple of almost-suicides. If you’re wondering why also this time of year has a peak incidence of suicide, read A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby and you’ll understand.
I can make a division between Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Christmas during the night is peaceful, the next day, everyone with food intoxication… NYE is a nightmare during the night with drunk people and the next day is peaceful with everyone sleeping and having their hangover at home!
Sharon Schecter, physician, Brazil.
It is usually very busy with a decreased amount of help and service available. I had a feeling of loneliness each time I worked Christmas which I did quite frequently over the last 25 years, essentially every second year. My worst Christmas was a few years ago when I did nine major emergency operations within 36 hours. I couldn’t remember my name at the end of it and I almost missed the opening of my garage when I drove home, not to mention missing a set of red lights in the middle of the night. Just awful. The worst memory of my work as a surgeon.
Surgeon, Alberta, Canada.
End of year in a clinic is so busy — everyone who’s met their deductible wants to see a doctor, and people with use-it-or-lose it flexible spending also fill our clinic slots. Last year, our little private clinic operated Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to accommodate the volume of patients. The patients were thrilled. The clinicians, not so much.
Working as a Registered Nurse in surgery over the holidays is a frenzy. The weeks preceding the new year are especially frantic, as people are racing to have procedures done that they’ve been putting off because their deductibles have now been met. Couple that with cold weather, ice, snow, and travel, and a trauma hospital can see many fractured hips, ankles, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, as well as injuries from MVAs (motor vehicle accidents) and other traumas related to weather. You have to start your day with a teamwork mindset and have your coworkers’ backs all day, knowing that they’ll have yours. At times you’re so busy you don’t have time to pee, and most days you go home with your back and feet feeling like they’re going to fall off. But not one day have I gone home disappointed that I took time to help a coworker instead of sit, or double or triple check a drug by bugging a pharmacist three times instead of just hanging a bag.
Other installments in this series: