Holidays in the Hospital

While most people celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, some are restricted to a hospital room. Many hospitals—like the Longwood Medical Area’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)—take matters into their own hands in trying to create a festive atmosphere in the midst of beds and medications.

“The holidays can be a very stressful and difficult time for patients and their families. We know that spiritual and emotional well-being has an impact on physical healing, which is why we’re committed to making the holidays at BWH a positive experience for our patients,” said nurse Joanne Hogan, executive director of care coordination at BWH.

The BWH Chaplaincy Service will host “a variety of holiday masses for many denominations, including a Hanukkah celebration,” said Holly Brown-Ayers, a BWH spokesperson.

One of BWH’s doctors puts on a Santa suit every year and visits the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patients and visitors. The NICU specializes in the care of ill or premature newborn infants. Santa will also visit other areas of the hospital.

BIDMC has an extra treat for its patients—carolers. Inspirational Singers, a gospel/inspirational choir and an “informal part of the BIDMC community,” as chorus leader Geoff O’Hara described them, will sing at the annual BIDMC holiday party as well as along patient floors during December.

“We sing because we love to do so and because we enjoy contributing to the life of the unique and wonderful place that is Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,” O’Hara said. “We truly believe in the mission of the medical center, which makes it a priority to care for patients as if they were our own family members.”

The Inspirational Singers rehearse—and occasionally perform—during lunch breaks. Members generally are present or former staff at BIDMC. O’Hara said they welcome other members of the community as well.

It’s not without its rewards. O’Hara told the Gazette that “the joy in the face of a patient when we arrive at the room and they ask us to sing a particular carol or holiday song” is a recurring favorite memory.

“Invariably, they end up joining in the singing, clapping and smiling as we wave goodbye and move on to another hall or floor. It seems to happen every year and is an incredible experience,” O’Hara said.


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