Treating Burnout, Trauma, and Grief with Dance

Treating Burnout, Trauma, and Grief with Dance

Tara Rynders, RN, MFA, BSN, BA, admits she hasnt had the easiest life. From when she was a child, though, she would heal from it through dance. In fact, she wanted to be a professional dancer before she thought about being a nurse.

My earliest memory is of holding a neighborhood performance in my backyard—and its a lifeline that Ive held on to through all of lifes highs and lows,” Rynders explains.

So Rynders graduated high school and headed to Hollywood. But she soon realized that the business was more focused on outward appearance rather than the inward healing dance provided.

After my time in Hollywood, I realized that I wanted to be able to offer both emotional and physical healing. Nursing allowed me the entry point into that space. Its a profession that offers flexibility to keep connected to my lifeline—dancing,” she says.

treating-burnout-trauma-and-grief-with-dance

Trauma Hits Home 

Rynders came to embrace dance and bring it into the world of nursing after her tough times. She cared for her mother until she passed. Rynders says that losing her mother made her entire world fall apart. At the time, she was working as a nurse but decided to reach out again to what had always helped—dance. So, she cut down her nursing hours

to earn a masters degree in dance.

Her sister became ill during that time and went into a coma for months. Rynders took off a semester and went to live with her in rehab until she was transferred from California to Colorado, where Rynders was living.

In my sisters hospital room, my dance and nursing worlds began to collide,” recalls Rynders. Every night, I would dance to Miley Cyruss ‘Party in the USA.’ And I discovered that although my sister couldnt speak, she could laugh. That became my goal—to make her laugh.”

When Rynders returned to school, she created an immersive theater performance called You & Me that was connected to her experience as her sisters caretaker and her work as a charge nurse in the ER.

The show You & Me traveled nationally and internationally to more than five countries.

What I realized when I cared for my sister was the gift that comes from having one-on-one intimate moments with another human being—to bathe her, feed her, and help be her voice,” says Rynders. During the day, I would hold the suffering and loss with my sister, and at night we would hold the joy as I danced. It felt like I had both my joy and my grief coupled together in all that I did.”

One more scary experience brought Rynders to where she is today. When her twins were six months old, she learned she was pregnant again. But this time, it was an ectopic pregnancy.

When I arrived at the hospital, things moved quickly. I remember the ER tech rolling me on the bed with too much force to start my IV; the ER physician and his caring face took extra time to see and listen to me. I remember feeling his compassion for my situation. I remember being transferred to a room when my fallopian tube burst and my abdomen began to distend with blood,” says Rynders.

They called a code yellow—the code they call before a code blue when your heart stops. My room was full of people,” she says. I passed out, but I could still hear everything being said. I felt my nurse grab my hand. She leaned into my ear and said, I am here, and you will be okay.’ I remember thanking her for remembering me because I was so scared and couldnt speak.”

This experience caused Rynders to have an epiphany.  “I realized that nurses are everything to their patients–their voices, their advocates, their support, their healing hands. I experienced this firsthand as a patient and realized how many opportunities I was missing as a nurse to connect and see my patients authentically. I became passionate about this in my practice as a nurse and began researching authentic connection in nursing,” she says. Everything pointed to one thing: our nurses are tired, overworked, and our healthcare systems are not set up for them to thrive and successfully care for patients.”

Rynders decided she was going to change that.

Bringing Dance to the Nurses

Pre-COVID, Rynders says that nursing leadership was downplaying nurses burnout. And in 2017, nurses werent ready to talk about it openly.

But the CNO and CEO where she worked approved her creating a two-hour immersive theater experience at the hospital to raise awareness of compassion fatigue and burnout. She created the performance with artists Jadd Tank and Lia Bonfilio and worked with playwright Edith Weiss.

The 2-hour performance took place in the hospital and was open to the general public. The nurses, doctors, and other healthcare personnel testimonials were breathtaking. Most along the lines of Thank you for giving us a language to understand the unrelenting grief and trauma we have been carrying with us,’” says Rynders.

After raising awareness about burnout, Rynders co-created, with Dr. Clare Hammoor, a six-week grief and trauma workshop series. The nurses connected with it so much that they began having monthly meetings post-workshop, which continued until COVID.

At the height of COVID, my CEO asked me if I would come off the floor and focus on caring for our nurses as they cared for our COVID patients. This told me he also saw that our staff would need ongoing support,” says Rynders. The position was temporary, though; she would eventually work as a clinical nurse educator at another health care system.

Today, Rynders is also an advanced grief recovery specialist and a RESTORE (Resiliency and Equity Support and Training for Organizational Renewal) peer responder who is on call for health care personnel when they need immediate support.

I help teach resilience, equity, and anti-racism courses for our entire system. I do this alongside my position as executive director of The Clinic Performance. I see both of these roles mutually honoring each other as I bring my whole self into all my experiences,” she says. We dance in the hospital at our meetings, and having a pulse on nursing in the hospital setting is vital to creating workshops that tend to our nurses—meeting them where they are emotionally.”

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Tara Rynders in her dance workshop

Dance Workshops

Rynders workshops touched many people and were so effective that Kaiser Permanente asked her to bring them to nurses across California. These six eight-hour workshops with up to 600 nurses began in April and will run through September.

Our workshops are now titled (Re)Brilliancy, a play on the word resiliency. I was tired of hearing everyone tell us to be more resilient during the pandemic. Nurses are some of the most resilient humans I know. We need resilient systems that reflect the brilliant and resilient humans we already are. (Re)Brilliancy workshops help us reflect on and honor the brilliant and resilient humans we already are,” says Rynders.

Until they experience the workshops, nurses often dont even realize that their stories or experiences have continued to both of them.

Rynders knows that her workshops are keeping nurses from leaving the profession. I have seen firsthand nurses ready to leave—completely burned out and done with the profession. [Theyve] attended our workshops on an ongoing basis and have a rekindled joy and fervor for caring for themselves and their patients,” she says.

But more needs to be done.

Nurses go into this field to make a difference in the lives of others. At some point, we begin sacrificing ourselves to do this. We dont have to sacrifice our mental well-being. These workshops help us disentangle our worth and identity as caregivers from being directly related to how much we can sacrifice our well-being. Our workshops help remind us what we love, what we are passionate about, and what we need to feel seen, heard, and cared for,” says Rynders. If healthcare systems want to retain their nurses, they need to start thinking creatively and bringing in non-traditional and innovative ways to care for their teams. Wellness must be embedded as a cornerstone that everything else builds upon.”

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UV Awareness Month and Protecting Your Skin

UV Awareness Month and Protecting Your Skin

July is a prime month for sunburns, but protecting your skin from sun damage is a year-round task. No matter where you live, putting sunscreen on before you head out the door is just as important in the summer as it is in the wintertime. With July marked as National UV Awareness Month, this is a great opportunity to educate patients (and yourself) about protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

Skin protection doesn’t mean the end of beach days, but it does call for extra attention and a little planning. The American Academy of Dermatology Association raises awareness about this campaign each year and offers lots of resources and tips for folks who are interested in how to easily incorporate sun protection into their routines.

Many people realize that sunscreen is important to bring and use for a day spent outside, but the regular sunscreen habit is important for a few reasons. Making sunscreen a habit means you’ll protect your skin from damaging UV rays every day, not just when you’ll be outside for an extended time. And that makes a big difference over the course of your lifetime because all those smaller days without protection quickly add up with the minutes you’ll spend walking the dog, running errands, gardening, or sitting by a sunny window.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the color of your skin makes no difference in the need to protect yourself from UV rays. Sun protection is essential to keep both cosmetic issues like wrinkles or premature aging and serious threats to health like skin cancer at bay. For people of color, the very darkest skin tones may offer some minor sun protection, but nothing that would offer the safety that sunscreen will. Companies are beginning to recognize how important it is to offer sunscreen that will work with different skin tones.

Sun protection also comes in other forms. You can wear hats with a wide brim to protect your face, ears, and neck, but even a baseball cap can help (just be sure to put sunscreen on the skin that’s not covered–particularly the tops of your ears and your neck). Tightly woven clothing can also offer protection that rivals an SPF (but a regular t-shirt offers only about the equivalent of an XXX SPF). Swim shirts and shorts are excellent for when you’re spending time in the water and won’t be able to reapply sunscreen frequently.

Of course, the earlier you start protecting your skin, the better. Many adults who have spotty or little history of using sun protection can take important steps now. Visiting a dermatologist every year for a full-body skin check will allow your team to spot any concerning changes in your skin. They should check every area of skin–from your scalp to between your toes–because melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, can appear in areas that have never been exposed to the sun.

Between visits, keep an eye on your skin and don’t second guess new moles or areas that seem itchy, are bleeding, or look like a pimple that won’t go away. Those concerning areas need to be checked to rule out anything serious or to develop a treatment plan for something that is, or has the potential to be, cancerous.

Lions, Gazelles, and Nurses – The Herd Mentality at Work

Lions, Gazelles, and Nurses – The Herd Mentality at Work

Nursing has a hierarchy of power and experience like any other profession; it also has a hierarchy that sometimes feels akin to the laws of survival on the savanna or in the jungle – the herd mentality at work.

Have you ever observed that the less experienced and more vulnerable nurses frequently get left on the outside, often falling prey to bullies and “predators”? This is the herd mentality at its worst, and many novice nurses are taken down by bullies and power-hungry colleagues who eat them alive when they’re demonstrating the slightest weakness.

Protection and Predation

Out on the African savanna, herds of gazelles keep watch for lions, one of their most fierce predators; the culling of the pack is a natural phenomenon, and lions need to eat just like anyone else. However, some naturalists notice that the sicker, older gazelles are left outside the herd, vulnerable to predation and outside of the safety of the circle. Young gazelles are naturally kept on the inside, their parents and elders protecting them and keeping them close, with the innate understanding that they are the carriers of the gene pool which need to survive into adulthood so that the species can thrive in the future.

In the healthcare environment, we often see a herd mentality; in this scenario, the experienced nurses make up the bones of the innermost circle of safety, and survival of the fittest is frequently the name of the game. But what about the newer nurses? Where are they in the hierarchy?

A Med/Surg Herd

Let’s consider a large Med/Surg unit where we find a mix of older, highly experienced nurses, some nurses two to five years into their careers, and several fresh-faced novice nurses in their first year.

Now let’s imagine a bully in the mix; she’s a nurse with 25 years of experience, a toxic personality, and a stranglehold on the unit culture. The administration is afraid of her, the nurse manager turns a blind eye to her egregious behavior, and most nurses keep their heads down and hope she doesn’t pick on or single them out.

The older, more experienced nurses may be relatively safe from the bully; they’ve known her a while, put up with her toxicity, humor her, or perhaps ignore her as much as they can to not call attention to themselves. Their silence is essentially complicity, and some may play into the bullying and tacitly empower her aberrant behavior. A bully can sometimes be a younger nurse who bullies older nurses, too; this power dynamic can work in both generational directions.

The New Nurse: Falling Prey to the Lion

Meanwhile, the newer nurses are fresh blood for the bully/lion/predator; they are unsure of themselves, need to ask questions, and are vulnerable to being singled out and stalked by the bully and her minions.

If the members of the nursing herd try to stay out of the bully’s way – or support her in being the bully – what does that mean for the newer nurses? It generally means they are kept outside the circle of protection and safety, left to fend for themselves against the nurse predator.

If you think of the nurses on the unit as a herd, the young are left outside to fend for themselves. The elders are primarily held in the center, cushioned against the attacks of the predator/bully; however, an elder nurse can also be deemed weak by the “herd” and thus ostracized to the fringes.

The calculus of this situation is untenable and unhealthy, with certain nurses receiving the short end of the stick; vulnerable novice nurses need nurturing and support, not the feeling of being thrown to the lion(s).

Extending the Circle of Safety

To counteract a situation that lends itself to the burnout and attrition of newer nurses (as well as those seasoned nurses who are vulnerable to bullies), the circle of safety needs to extend its protection to everyone. Rather than leaving more vulnerable colleagues to be picked off the edge by predators and bullies, the circle closes around those needing its reassuring sanctuary, whether older, younger, or somewhere in between.

Dr. Renee Thompson, one of the world’s foremost experts on nurse bullying and incivility in the healthcare workplace, has documented and communicated the subtleties and vicissitudes of this scourge through books, blog posts, articles, podcasts, keynote speeches, videos, social media, and the powerful work of the faculty of her Healthy Workforce Institute. As Dr. Thompson informs us, we must learn to speak up in the face of bullying and to protect those members of our team who are susceptible to a form of professional predation that sends many a nurse running for the exit, often leaving the profession altogether.

We must reject the adage that nurses eat our young; we can create and embrace a new paradigm where nurses nurture and empower their young instead.

This isn’t rocket science, but we nurses need to learn the skills that will help us to bully-proof ourselves, speak up in the face of bullying, end nurse predation, and enclose our colleagues in a circle of safety that keeps the lions on the outside and the vulnerable protected from harm.

We can make different choices, and it’s our daily decision regarding our path. I implore you to extend the circle of safety, protect the vulnerable, and bring a sense of community, safety, and symbiotic togetherness to your corner of the nursing world.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to feature Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column.

The Importance of Teaching Nursing Students How to Cope with their Mental Health

The Importance of Teaching Nursing Students How to Cope with their Mental Health

We’ve seen the statistics showing that nurses and future nurses need mental well-being more than ever.

With healthcare staffing shortages all over the country, healthcare facilities and consumers cannot afford to lose more nurses. At the root of it is that nursing is an incredibly stressful profession, with 63% of nurses reporting significant workplace stress, 70% saying they put the safety and well-being of the patient above their own, and 31% reporting a workload assignment higher than which they felt comfortable (American Nurses Association, 2021).

In addition, 29% of nurses reported feeling sad, down, or depressed for two weeks before the pandemic, with an increase to 34% during the pandemic (American Nurses Association, 2021).

So how do educators ensure future nurses don’t enter the workforce without the skills to cope with the demands of the job? Modeling support for students in nursing school is the start for future nurses to learn resilience through the challenges of school so that they can manage the stress throughout their nursing career.

Nursing school is a demanding career path and one of the most challenging programs. Students enter the field from diverse backgrounds and often with many personal struggles – from academic challenges, medical conditions, strenuous family responsibilities, mental health challenges, and even prior traumas.

In addition, many students worked through the pandemic assisting nurses who were helping to save lives while experiencing high levels of stress and depression.

When faculty understand and agree that nursing students are experiencing stress and mental health issues, this is the time to provide support and model how to endure these challenges for long-term success. To give students the instruction they need to care for patients holistically, Chamberlain University established the Chamberlain CARE® model.

Educating Students on Mental Health

My career goal has been to combat the stigma of mental illness. The Chamberlain CARE® model has further inspired me to support students through nursing school to become strong and compassionate nurses. As a faculty of mental health nursing, it is crucial to educate students on mental health because every patient and family member they meet will likely experience some form of anxiety.

When patients and families come in, they often deal with a long list of emotions – from apprehension about a diagnosis, severity of the condition, recommended treatment, long-term implications, and even future medical bills. When experiencing this anxiety, the patients and families may display uncharacteristic behaviors as they try to cope with an unpredictable and stressful situation.

It is important to remember the feelings of fear and anxiety people have when seeking healthcare services, as these can be their most vulnerable moments. As nurses, we are in hospitals routinely and become comfortable with the environment. However, we are generally not the ones dealing with an illness or injury and facing uncertainties. Therefore, all nurses must interact with patients compassionately and without judgment.

When teaching mental health, we connect the students to a true understanding of the individual in crisis to develop greater compassion and empathy. We are in a unique position because there is greater subjectivity involved. Diagnosing and treating mental illness involves creating trust with the patient so they feel comfortable disclosing their deepest thoughts, fears, and feelings.

As educators, our role is to provide delicate guidance to help connect the students’ emotions to the reality of the patient’s trauma and life horrors. Without this connection, the students will more likely display stigmatizing behavior that prevents patients from seeking and complying with treatment.

Mental illness is a critical issue, and stigma infects societal attitudes. Many need mental health services but never seek treatment due to that stigma. As a result, some patients can accept their diagnosis, while others grapple with the idea of being seen from a vulnerable and stigmatized perspective. In healthcare, everyone is perceived as caring and compassionate, but empathy toward those with mental health issues is lacking.

This prevents follow-through on appropriate treatment and services and exacerbates the mental health issues, potentially leading to further development of mental illness diagnoses. Interventions to combat stigma are critical to the stability of these individuals and society.

Everyone Has Bias

If we confront the preconceptions nursing students may have, we can help reduce the stigma toward individuals with mental illness throughout all areas of healthcare. The first point to recognize is that everyone has bias.

We all have certain beliefs about people or groups formed throughout childhood and other experiences. Some biases we have are not even rational. Some thoughts jump into our heads, but then we may even realize that we do not believe or support those thoughts. The most important part is acknowledging that we have these thoughts. Without acknowledgment, we allow our behaviors to support those biases. For example, common biases toward mental illness are that these individuals are more aggressive or do not take care of themselves. If a nurse has these thoughts about a patient and does not acknowledge them, that nurse is likely to judge and stigmatize.

Deconstructing the Stigma

Before delving into mental illness diagnoses, we have a class discussion about stigma. We discuss what it is, where it comes from, and how it impacts everyone involved. We examine cases of some of the worst traumatic experiences and how the surviving individuals will struggle for the rest of their lives no matter the other circumstances of their lives. From that understanding, we can recognize that any one of us is a moment away from the potential of a similar life-changing tragedy.

One of the key points to remember is that those without a mental illness diagnosis are not so different from those with a diagnosis. Many patients we help in an inpatient behavioral health setting have a history of trauma, hence the greater insistence on more mainstream trauma-informed care. In the current healthcare environment, it is becoming increasingly common for nurses to experience trauma through violent events and the workplace’s compounding stress.

Impactful Self-Assessment Activity

One of the other activities the class participates in is a self-assessment using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scale. Ten traumatic experience categories are tallied to determine an ACEs score. The range is from zero to 10 in the scoring of traumatic childhood experiences. Once the students confidentially calculate their scores, I have them anonymously enter them into a poll that presents the class scores on the screen for everyone to see.

It is an incredibly impactful experience for the students to see the scores of their classmates. Through discussion, we realize how many students in that class have experienced high levels of trauma, primarily as they reflect on the description of each question. Some realize they are not alone in their traumatic childhoods while also, at times recognizing for the first time that those experiences are not typical for a child to experience.

This has become one of the most important activities I have implemented. It causes the students to recognize that they do not even know their classmates well enough, so how would they be able to understand their patients well enough to justify judging them? As we reflect on the numbers, I emphasize to the students that none deserved any of those traumas, just as none of our patients deserve the traumas that destabilized their mental well-being.

Support is often the most critical factor in overcoming and enduring trauma, mental illness, and life challenges. Throughout the course, there is a continual emphasis on self-care and coping skills for teaching others and as a resource for themselves. We know what nursing today looks like with nurses experiencing stress and trauma. Collectively reducing stigma can strengthen the mental health support and treatment we can provide, which can also help the nursing field. With a non-judgmental approach from healthcare professionals, we can better support each other in our times of need.

The impact of self-realization that my students experience drives me to continue supporting them. And notes from students like Larry Pitts, a senior at Chamberlain’s Addison campus who is finalizing his program, are my inspiration. “In 2020, I wasn’t doing the best in school. I was careless, unfocused, and unmotivated. Once I found my motivation and started doing better in school, Professor Mayo always made it her priority to acknowledge my progress and let me know I was doing a great job! She was a haven because she welcomed everyone to discuss anything without passing any judgment. I am forever thankful for her.”

References

Nurses, the Holidays, and Work-Life Balance

Nurses, the Holidays, and Work-Life Balance

There’s no doubt about it, nurses — it’s the holidays, and many of us feel pressure in our personal and professional lives. So how do the holidays impact you, your mental and emotional health, spiritual well-being, and professional responsibilities as a nurse?

Working During the Holidays

Many of you employed by hospitals, home health agencies, hospices, and other organizations are likely working during the holidays, perhaps even on your favorite special day. As a result, you may miss special moments with family and friends, even while you do your best to spread cheer among your colleagues, your patients, and their families.

Having to show up for work at 7 am on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day is no fun, and working 11 am-7 pm in the ER on New Year’s Eve is no picnic. However, those who don’t work in milieus requiring us to work holidays may forget how our nurse colleagues are slogging away while we tuck into Christmas dinner and open presents with family.

For Jews who celebrate Hannukah, having eight days makes it easier to be flexible with our celebrations, even though most employers pay no attention to Hannukah in their planning. And for African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa, it can be challenging to ask for time off for a holiday that few people recognize or understand. Then again, Kwanzaa has multiple nights like Hannukah, which can sometimes make it easier, but only occasionally, depending on your work schedule’s demands and your employer’s sensitivity.

No matter how you slice it, the holidays can be challenging enough without the added stress of working odd hours and missing out on the fun and togetherness that others enjoy so readily.

Nurse Self-Care and the Holidays

Self-care is essential at any time of year — and everyone defines that concept differently — but you need to be extra vigilant during the holiday season. Ask yourself some questions:

  • What can I do to make my holiday shifts easier?
  • How can I bring more cheer to my workplace, colleagues, and patients?
  • Can my family be creative about the timing of special celebrations and meals so that I don’t miss out on my favorite holiday activities? (I’ve heard of nurses having Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner the day before or the day after to accommodate work schedules.)
  • Are there nice things I can do for myself this time of year? Can I take myself out for a pastry and hot chocolate? Can I spend a few hours in my favorite bookstore?
  • How can I reward myself after the holidays for a job well done?
  • What gratefulness can I feel and express for the abundance and love in my life?

Nurses are a nurturing bunch, and we can often forget to nurture ourselves. Do you work 12-hour shifts, do all the holiday shopping, cook most of the meals, send all the cards, and show up bright and smiling every day, even when you feel run down and overworked?

Sometimes, there’s something that needs to give, and whether you cancel a social engagement, delegate a task to another family member, or turn down an extra shift, you may need to make some choices that put your needs first this holiday season.

The Presence and the Presents

As Ram Dass once said, “be here now.” The holidays are admittedly often about presents, but they’re also about presence.

How can you be more present during this holiday season? How can you be more mindful? You can be present for your patients, expressing compassion for the fact that, unlike you, they don’t get to go home to their families when your shift ends. You can also be present for your colleagues as they struggle with the stress of the holiday season.

Meanwhile, you can also be present to yourself and your feelings; this time of year can be joyous but also a challenge. Remaining mindful of how you feel can help you choose a course that will keep you uplifted, cajole you into scheduling your self-care activities, and relieve you of the sense that you have to do it all. And if you have to work on the holidays, make a plan to do it with great heart, compassion, and a feeling of gratitude for your patients and the ways in which you can serve their greatest good.

Stay present, enjoy the holidays, take care of yourself, make self-care a priority (whatever that means to you), and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done in 2022.

Minority Nurse is thrilled to welcome Keith Carlson, “Nurse Keith,” a well-known nurse career coach and podcaster of The Nurse Keith Show as a guest columnist. Check back every other Thursday for Keith’s column. 

How to Ease the Holidays for Your Medical Staff

How to Ease the Holidays for Your Medical Staff

The holiday mood is all around us, but holidays represent hectic medical facilities times for numerous reasons. Some of them are mainly because the staff is working hard and not being home with their loved ones. The overall atmosphere is not good for the patients either since none of them want to spend the holidays in hospitals. That’s not the kind of care they hoped to get this time of year, and they might lash out at medical staff. But in the spirit of the holiday season, here is an overview of things to improve the morale of medical staff.

How to Boost the Medical Staff Morale During Holidays

I’m a registered nurse behind Medicare Login HQ, a portal dedicated to patients who want to find out how to log into different Medicare providers. Unfortunately, being in a love-hate relationship with administration myself on the one hand and taking care of the patients on the other, I too suffer the same fate as all other medical workers – being understaffed, tired, and spread thin when holidays come around. So here’s a list of things we like to do at our hospital that might ease the burden.

Bust Out the Decorations On Time

There is something about holiday decorations that eases the pain of being away from home. This rings true for the patients and staff alike. And also, there isn’t a bleaker sight than an undecorated space during the holidays. So the first step towards cheering up the collective is decorating the area they spend the most time.

Start decorating on time, ask for help and enjoy the team-building activities like placing mistletoes and trimming trees. Here, deck the halls has a different meaning.

The Spirit of Christmas Playlists

We all know what time of the year it is as soon as we hear the Mariah Carey tunes. Unthroned Queen of Christmas and other carols can be easily played in the background and still add to the overall festive time of the year. If the tunes can’t spread across the hallways due to hospital policy, then keeping them in the staff area will improve everyone’s mood.

Organize an Early Celebration

No matter what department you are in, everyone knows how crazy things get during the holidays. It’s best to plan the gathering early and celebrate before the rush so the staff will be rested and enjoy the party. Hosting a celebration during the holidays is usually bad because overworked staff can’t let loose and truly enjoy socializing.

Pick a date, call the entire staff department, and dedicate the time to non-work related activities.

The Gift of Holiday Spirit

It’s hard to assess people’s financial situation, so mandated gift-giving shouldn’t be a part of your holiday festivities—no need to strain the staff’s budget. Instead, you can go back to the roots of the meaning behind the holidays. For example, you could organize a simple card-giving ceremony and a small potluck party.

That should be enough to stir some pleasant conversation and show appreciation between coworkers. And everybody can taste various dishes and maybe even exchange some recipes.

A multicultural staff brings a lot to the table for a holiday party, just like it’s shown that having a multicultural staff increases the facility’s innovation and care level. Good food, and in the wisdom of Sheldon Cooper, offering a hot beverage might soothe all the worries away. Add to that some desserts, and you will have a room full of relaxed staff in no time.

The Most Important Step – Plan a Holiday Schedule In Advance

There is no such thing as overplanning when it comes to holiday shifts and medical staff schedules. Instead, make contingency plans and contingency plans of contingency plans. There’s a Latin saying, “Malum consilium quod mutari non potest,” – which means: Bad is the plan that cannot change.

Pro tip: plan the shifts well in advance so people can plan their vacation and downtime around them.

Treat Medical Staff with Kindness

Medical staff is the first line of defense. When people are nervous and depressed because they miss quality time with their family, being in a hospital feels like a prison. Some deal with it better than others, and some might lash out at medical staff. The same medical staff that’s already overworked and strained because they, too, are missing their families.

The best advice is: to offer a kind word. No matter how bleak someone might feel, and even if they are lashing out, the best way is to provide a kind word and show that you are there for them. Likewise, enticing medical staff to socialize with patients improves patient care and how your staff feels. After all, we are all just human.

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