Christmas is always busy for emergency departments. As a nurse, we do our best to serve up help with humour and a cup of tea, writes Merrilyn Lambert.
Christmas is always busy for emergency departments. As a nurse, we do our best to serve up help with humour and a cup of tea, writes Merrilyn Lambert.

What it’s like to work in emergency over Christmas

While many are gearing up for a relaxing Christmas holiday with family and friends, there are many professions that won't get this luxury - an Emergency Department Nurse is just one of them.

I have been an Emergency Department (ED) Nurse at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital since 2004. It is a career that is both challenging and rewarding but I love it!

Over the holiday period in the ED, we expect to see around 200 patients a day and there will be approximately 106 staff working the 24-hour roster. This year, already, our doctors, nurses and allied health staff have cared for more than 61,000 patients.

Nursing is one of the professions that often requires staff to work on Christmas Day, and having been in the industry for 15 years, I've worked quite a few. The team and I all try to make it a special day for our patients, our colleagues and ourselves. Staff often arrive wearing Christmas hats, antlers, flashing festive earrings or have their hair tied with tinsel to spread a little Christmas cheer.

Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Emergency Department nurse, Merrilyn Lambert, regularly works Christmas in Emergency. Picture: Supplied
Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Emergency Department nurse, Merrilyn Lambert, regularly works Christmas in Emergency. Picture: Supplied

No one wants to be a patient, or a relative or carer of a patient, in hospital at Christmas - it can be a very difficult and stressful time. Over the years, I've learnt that humour and the offer of a cup of tea and a biscuit can sometimes be the best medicine to calm patients, as well as their anxiously waiting family or carers.

Compassion and understanding can also put people at ease especially if they are in the ED. If permitted, a few delicious little Christmas treats never go astray, either!

No one day is ever the same, but what is guaranteed over Christmas is an increase in patients in the ED.

This is the peak time of the year when people are travelling from interstate or overseas and may fall sick. There is also a rise in heat stroke incidents over the hotter December and January days, as people entertain outdoors and enjoy the festive season. And let's not forget about beach and water sports related injuries associated with enjoying our beautiful coastline. Sadly, Christmas is also when a lot of people experience loneliness or depression, and for a number of reasons, may end up in the ED.

RELATED: Prince of Wales Hospital began life as an asylum for destitute children

As always, nurses work hard to ensure all our patients receive the best possible care and can get home to their families as soon as possible. To do this we need the best equipment, technology and educational programs.

Christmas is a busy time of year for hospital emergency departments. Picture: Christian Gilles
Christmas is a busy time of year for hospital emergency departments. Picture: Christian Gilles

The Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation - the Hospital's charity - is a huge help and supports the ED team including nurses in every way they can. Over the years the Foundation have provided us with amazing equipment, such as a handheld video laryngoscope (which makes it easier to insert a breathing tube), a transport ventilator, a Bipap machine to assist patients to breathe, wheelchairs that are easy to push and manoeuvre, and much more.

On an even bigger scale, the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation is also raising funds for a new Emergency Department that will be housed in the new Acute Services Building, which is part of a $720 million-dollar hospital redevelopment project set to open in 2022.

RELATED: Wait times blow out at Prince of Wales Hospital ED

This Christmas, consider donating to a charitable cause like the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation. No donation is ever too small, and every dollar makes a difference, especially for the Prince of Wales Hospital Emergency Department staff and patients.

This year, please gift to the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation to help provide more lifesaving equipment, technology and education to help this dedicated team of doctors, nurses and allied health staff provide extraordinary care to patients. Every $1 donated will be matched by a generous donor (up to $50,000).

Merrilyn Lambert, Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation Emergency Department Nurse

and 2018 Nurse of the Year

Donate here: www.powhf.org.au/emergency


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