Glittering decorations don the nursing station, visiting hours are over and the halls of the hospital are quiet except for the nattering chatter of disparate television programs spilling out of the patient’s rooms. I have spent many such a melancholy evening shift working med-surge or ICU during the holiday season. Many of you can relate. Holiday shifts can easily dampen one’s holiday cheer. If such an atmosphere can affect staff in this way, what must patients feel? Chronic illness as well as the advent of the holiday season have both been linked to depression1, 2 and depression has been linked to longer hospital stays.3 A blog post in Exhale , the official blog of the Lung Institute, observes; “There are times though where depression might play a role in how you feel during the holidays. This is especially true for people who have been diagnosed with a lung disease. From symptoms of breathlessness to the depletion of energy, having a lung disease can lead to feelings of loss and negativity, which can be increased over the course of the holiday” and makes this conclusion: “Unfortunately, depression can actually exacerbate…physical symptoms”. The following symptoms are also noted in the blog for patients to watch for:
- Fatigue and appetite changes
- Sleeping problems
- Thoughts about death or suicide
- Hopelessness, guilt or helplessness
It is good to be extra aware of these symptoms in our patients during the holiday season and take measures to alleviate them. This could mean securing the proper professional interventions such as social worker, chaplain, or even a psychologist consult. But it may be as simple as offering a smile, a laugh, a kindness or a comfort. Inspiration is our business after all. So as we meet and mingle with our patients over the next few weeks let mix in a little cheer with that neb cocktail, just for added measure. If Mark Twain is correct, and I think he is, this could be the cure for the holiday shift blues too. Mr. Twain observes; “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Cheers!