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Extending the Holidays: How Health Care Providers Can Give to Patients and Colleagues All Year

December 16, 2013

By Diana L. Gallagher MS, RN, CWOCN, CFCN

It's finally here. Thanksgiving has been put away along with the good china and crystal. Our family, like countless other families across the country, enjoyed the traditional rounds of football games, the company of family and friends and far too much food. As much as I enjoy Thanksgiving, I love Christmas. I simply adore everything about the holiday season which for me begins the day after Thanksgiving.

Although I celebrate Christmas, I am equally captivated by the traditions of Hanukah and Kwanza. There is a commonality between these holidays and that commonality is tradition. These are seasons of family celebrations, special meals, and traditions that we learn as children and as adults pass on to our children. It is tradition that forms the threads that bind generations together. As I sit and write to you, my mantle is covered with Santas. They each hold memories that I hold dear. There is a large, uncharacteristic fly fishing Santa that celebrates the year that my husband and I took lessons. A pair of atypical fabric and straw Santas has traveled with me since I lived in Okinawa. There are carved wooden Santas, crocheted Santas, a garden gnome Santa, Santas in workshops, crafted Santas and my favorite Santa.


This Santa was given to me by my Dad on my very first Christmas. This well-worn, plastic Santa was a simple night light. In spite of the fact that it is now one of my most cherished treasures, it has seen better days. It carries its share of traumas suffered in my youth with quiet dignity. It is scarred with a burn that melted the plastic from where I tried to use a larger than acceptable light bulb. It has more than a few cracks and a small hole at the top of his cap from a tumble off my night stand. When new, I doubt that this Santa was valued at more than a few dollars and yet it has grown to be one of my most valued Christmas treasures. Its value is in the memories that it evokes. Memories that are steeped in years of traditions.

Swept Up in the Season of Giving

My special Santa fits in perfectly with a season of sentimentality. It is hard not to embrace all that the season has to offer. It is a time that even the hardest of hearts are softened a bit. Scrooges and Grinches are forever changed as they begin to embrace the holiday season. It is nearly impossible not to be swept up in the season. News stories featuring soldiers returning home to surprise their families has the same tissue clutching reaction from me every time. I love hearing about regular people sharing unexpected kindnesses with complete strangers. It may be larger efforts like paying off the remaining balance on a layaway account at Kmart, a kind soul handing out 100 dollar bills to complete strangers or leaving an exaggerated tip for a waitress. It may not be a big action but instead a collection of smaller kindnesses. We leave treats for homebound neighbors, surprises for our letter carrier and drop coins into red kettles all over town. We watch and rewatch marathons of heart-warming stories that highlight the good in all of us. We share trays of special treats that are all the more special because they are made with more love than skill. Each of us makes a sincere effort to remember others during the holiday season with cards, phone calls and gestures of concern.

Improving the Lives of Patients and Colleagues Through Small Gestures

There is so much that we can continue to do to improve the lives of others. The need does not disappear with Christmas trees left on the curb for pickup. In healthcare, we are graced with the chance to help others every day. It may be in the form of special attention to patients and families who are having a difficult time. It may mean a few moments of healing touch as we apply lotion or time to talk while we comb a patient's hair. It may be helping a coworker with a scheduling conflict or special assignment. It may be saying yes to the request to teach a community group or helping with a health fair or facilitating a support group. Depending on your role, it may be providing opportunities and encouragement to novices or mentoring someone who has yet to meet their full potential. It may be an opportunity in your personal life. The opportunities to enrich the lives of others are endless.

My wish this year is that we do not pack away the true spirit of Christmas with the trappings of the holiday. Let's keep the feeling alive as we go about our lives; let's share the good tidings and small kindnesses every day. Let us each commit to allowing the Christmas season to "season" our lives for the coming year. It is a gift that we can give to ourselves.

About the Author
Diana Gallagher has over 30 years of nursing experience with a strong focus in wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nursing. As one of the early leaders driving certification in foot care nursing, she embraces a holistic nursing model. A comprehensive, head to toe assessment is key in developing an individualized plan of care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.