Negative side of holiday seen in View Royal ER

Not a holly jolly time for emergency staff and other hospital workers

  • Dec. 24, 2015 8:00 p.m.

Christmas morning can be a special time for many West Shore residents. Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday, many still have the day off to relax, recuperate and spend some time with loved ones.

But we often forget there are those who still have to get up and go to work the morning of Dec. 25.

And for those that do, it can be a challenging day.

“It’s not a positive experience,” says Dr. Christopher Morrow, one of 36 emergency room doctors that split their time between Victoria General Hospital and Royal Jubilee Hospital. “The emergency room is not a happy place (on Christmas) … It’s not really a happy place in general.”

In his 12 years of practicing emergency medicine, the Oak Bay resident has missed about half of the Christmas mornings with his family. The fact his children are getting a little older – they’re now 12 and 14 – doesn’t make it any easier, he says.

“It’s one of the real sacrifices … It really hurts when you leave your kids on Christmas morning.”

That goes for everyone working at hospitals, not just doctors. “Generally, it’s a very hard time in health care … Holidays really accentuate the social problems we have.”

Emergency rooms actually see a small bump on and around Christmas Day in cases related to social issues, Morrow says, such as excessive drinking, domestic abuse, suicide attempts and mental illness, as well as frail elderly patients brought in by visiting relatives who are concerned about their health.

“You see the loneliest of the lonely,” he says, adding it is a harsh reminder of the hard realities of others’ lives. “The emergency room really is the end of the safety net.”

Some of that slight increase in patients is due to family physicians being away, primary care clinics having reduced hours and other services being closed for at least a portion of the holiday.

But Morrow says staff try to make the best of it by helping each other out. “Some people don’t mind it,” he says, adding that people without small children will often trade shifts to help more families spend at least the morning together. “You just work around it … you modify your celebrations.”

It’s not just hospital workers who have to modify their celebrations at Christmas time, he says. Some patients can actually help lift spirits in the ward when they come in with a minor injury relating to the holiday. That brief stay before returning to their holiday festivities can often provide a bright moment in an otherwise gloomy day.

However, creating and maintaining the holiday vibe around the ER can be challenging.

While nurses can sometimes get away with wearing a Santa hat or a fun sweater, Morrow says, doctors can’t, especially if they have to deliver a serious diagnosis or tell a family member a patient has passed away. Regardless whether the family celebrates Christmas or not, the impact of such news isn’t lessened by wearing a goofy hat. “It just doesn’t work,” he says.

There’s a time and a place for holiday cheer, but the ER may not be that place, especially on Christmas morning.

Did you know?

Those working in hospitals aren’t the only ones getting up for work today. All essential service providers have some level of staff ready in the event of a Dec. 25 emergency. That includes everyone from paramedics to firefighters to dispatchers.

Of course, it’s not just emergency responders who are ready at the helm. Often overlooked are the staff of movie theatres, restaurants, hotels, popular holiday venues, convenience stores and other service providers such as bus and taxi drivers.

Whether they celebrate the holiday or not, they are spending time away from their families and friends while working to make the day more special for others.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

The seventh annual Goddess Run is almost here

The race has a new route and will start and finish at Belmont

West Shore sends top track and field athletes go to Islands

Royal Bay and Belmont send more students in field events

VIDEO: 75th Swiftsure International Yacht Race

‘A happy boat is a fast boat’

Greater Victoria youth earn Scouts’ highest honour

21 youth receive Chief Scout’s Award from lieutenant governor

Visiting Vimy Ridge: Saanich teen set for historic summer tour

Mount Douglas student John Evans will tour historic war sites

VIDEO: 75th Swiftsure International Yacht Race

‘A happy boat is a fast boat’

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Out of control wildfire prompts restriction around Allie Lake

One of the first large wildfires of the 2018 season is blazing out of control

Passersby help rescue occupants of home as fire breaks out in Courtenay

Coffee run turns into fire rescue for pair of men

New social club started at Cedar Hill Rec Centre

Cedar Hill Social Club for adults 55-plus feautes numerous activities

Most Read