nammi, Nurse, General Practice, 01:33PM Nov 26, 2013
Diane M. Goodman
As I look forward to another bustling holiday season, I have to admit it fills me with as much fear and trepidation as it does joy. While we LOVE the camaraderie and family gatherings of the holiday season, we also know it is a hardly an easy time for healthcare employees, especially nurses. Loss is felt acutely during the holidays, and loneliness and personal crises seem more poignant than those throughout the rest of the year. For us, this means gathering everyone a little closer as we face two empty chairs at the holiday table this year.
No, the holidays are neither easy nor uneventful for nurses.
I once worked an unforgettable ICU shift where we received EIGHT patients suffering from acute myocardial infarctions on Thanksgiving eve. They were of varying degree of severity, but a few of those initial eight did not make it home for the next holiday. We were appalled, and a little horrified. How had this happened?
While a few sidecracks were heard here and there about patients "eating themselves to death", it wasn't that far from the truth. Had anyone taught these patients about moderation? Did they truly understand the dangers of overloading on carbs, and then engaging in vigorous games of touch football with nephews and grandchildren immediately thereafter? Did the women understand their symptoms of shortness of breath and severe fatigue might be harbingers of a deadly process, rather than a side effect of too much time in a hot kitchen?
As nurses, we owe it to our families, friends, and peers to be the voice of caution during the holidays. One of every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease (CDC, 2013), which means no it isn't ok to light up "just this once" after enjoying a heavy Thanksgiving meal, and yes, we DO need to call 911 for anyone having symptoms at family get-togethers, even if it means an interruption to the festivities.
Let's keep as many chairs filled as we can during the holidays to come. That includes our own, especially as the median age of nurses places us smack in the middle of a potential danger zone. I believe we can be assertive without being "preachy", we can be concerned without being a stick-in-the-mud, and we can also enjoy the delight and optimism of the holidays without shedding unnecessary tears in the ER.
On the menu for our Thanksgiving? Lots of great conversation and hugs, maybe a skim pumpkin latte', and of course a bit of turkey & fixins'. Low-fat, delicious, and no need to loosen the waistband later!
Have a holiday story to disclose? Please share...