Opinion: Fond memories of our Christmas at hospital

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I have fond memories of working in hospital on Christmas Day. In the early seventies at the beginning of my career, patients spent much longer in hospital.

Those with leg fractures would be on traction for at least 12 weeks, even surgery which today would be a day case could involve a hospital stay of up to a month.

So there was a much closer relationship between staff and patients. In the X-ray department I always volunteered to do the 24 hour on call duty which was 9 am Christmas Day to 9 am Boxing Day. I would leave my husband a tin of beans with a tin opener and a note saying ‘See you on Boxing Day’.

A few days prior to the big day X- Ray would host a party.

All hospital staff were invited and it was a much anticipated event. My boss would bring in her brass jam pan and on the little stove in the kitchen she would set about concocting the most glorious mulled wine.

We would put mounds of food out on the table used for barium enemas (we’d scrub it first) and throughout the day we would welcome as many staff as possible.

The party was always held during the normal working day, patients waiting for their X- Rays didn’t seem to mind the smell of mulled wine and mince pies wafting through the waiting room, or the laughter and music getting louder, or the fact many members of staff had dyed their hair green for the occasion.

On Christmas Day, it was a rule that any staff working in departments such as X-ray and Casualty visited the wards to sample their food and drink. I once managed all 14 wards, but was so stuffed I could hardly move, but pushing the mobile X-Ray machine up and down some of the wards for bedside X-Rays soon worked the calories off.

By far the busiest ward was male orthopaedic, full of young men in traction bored out of their heads as they endured 12 weeks of immobility waiting for their fractures to heal so they could get back onto their motorbikes. On a normal day a crate of beer and stash of betting slips were left at the ward entrance.

The Charge Nurse insisted that these items were essential for the mental and physical health of his patients and no-one ever questioned it.

In the run-up to Christmas this delivery would get bigger so that in the end a stay on this ward was just one long party. It was such fun going to X-Ray them on the ward, a mixture of banter, jokes and loud music made it the most enjoyable of working days.

In this world of political correctness, this all sounds very unprofessional, but rest assured everyone received the best care and treatment, with some patients declaring spending Christmas in hospital one of the best experiences of their life.