In the final instalment of our working at Christmas stories we meet Mark, an emergency nurse at a central London hospital.
He works on a short stay ward which is part of an accident and emergency ward. He has been a nurse for five year and worked on his current ward for two and half a years.
Patients are placed on the ward for further tests and observations. In general patients are only on the ward for 12-24 hours “hopefully they get better and go home” rather than be admitted to a longer-stay ward.
The ward is “busy all the time and winter pressures are a factor. Most days the ward is full. There are 22 beds and there are usually 30-40 people on the ward during the day.”
The pressures on the ward are increased at this particular time of year. “We are an observation ward for people who had a bit too much Xmas cheer to sleep it off on our ward for a few hours.”
Working at Christmas
Mark has worked at Christmas before and is positive about the experience. “It is generally a nice experience. The hospital is a bit quieter. All the patients and staff get a Christmas lunch.
“While some of us obviously need to stay on the ‘shop floor’ we try to get as many staff as possible to sit down together.”
To make things more festive there is a Christmas tree on the ward and staff will wear hats on Christmas Day. Mark hopes this helps cheer patients up as “no one wants to be in hospital at Christmas.”
While at work another thing which Mark thinks helps to make the day more special is that: “Our ward is very multicultural and has staff from all over the world. People bring in their own food from Asia, South America and Africa and everyone joins in regardless of whether they are Christians or have any religious beliefs.”
Mark, doesn’t believe that Christmas Day puts extra pressure on his job. “I try to be professional all the time. There is nothing at Christmas you would not get at any other time.”
However, he adds: “We are a holding base for people with mental health and social problems such as homeless people, who are suffering. Everyone else is having a good time and they are stuck in the cold.
“It is tough when all the shelters are full and you have assessed them and then have to tell them they have to go back on the streets as there isn’t anywhere else for them.”
While pressure is building on the department already, Mark is braced for it getting busier after Christmas, with the winter crisis set to be at its worst during January and February. “We are already flat out and we aren’t into the main part of winter yet.”
“The issue is that pressure on the NHS is so bad it is almost like winter all year round. Added to that pressure, during winter “we have the flu season and people being generally unwell.”
Pointedly Mark also identifies government policies as being a factor in the winter hospital crisis. “Austerity is an issue with people not being able to heat their homes and then as a result becoming ill.”