Health care never takes a holiday. This means nurses, doctors, and many workers who keep Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare running often spend Christmas and other holidays caring for patients.
“The first year it was really hard for me to work on Christmas. I cried on my way to work,”confesses Emily Syverson, Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit nurse.
The moment she walked through the doors of Gillette, however, she wiped away her tears and gained a new perspective. “I realized the kids I’m taking care of don’t want to be here and I focused on that,” she says. “It’s my job to bring joy.”
“Honestly, now I love working here on Christmas,” Syverson says. In fact, she now often volunteers to work holiday shifts for her coworkers who have small children at home. “I know how special it is to be with your loved ones on Christmas,” she says.
“My family waits for me to get home to celebrate. I feel like on their part they’re being selfless.” Syverson typically works the day shift on holidays and that means her celebrations get underway around 4:30pm.
Karen Brill vice president of patient care, is aware of the sacrifices Gillette workers make on the holidays. “Our staff gives selflessly to make the holiday season as personal and warm for each family as they possibly can,” she says.” They create an environment of joy and celebration so that the patients can still enjoy the holidays if they have to be away from their homes and their own beds. It really is quite a wonder.”
Syverson has been an inpatient rehabilitation nurse at Gillette for four years and has worked every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s since 2011. Her unit has room for 16 patients but on a typical Christmas there are four to eight patients.
To keep the holidays happy she joins other nurses by wearing holiday-themed scrubs and being playful. “Singing and dancing is a specialty of mine. I sing a lot of One Direction!” She laughs as she admits some of the songs are not really “Christmasy” but she delights in making even teenage boys smile with her rendition of the group’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”
“It’s a fun atmosphere and people are so generous,” Syverson adds. She’s impressed by the number of gifts donated to Gillette patients. “Last year the American Girl Doll company donated so many dolls. It’s a dream for a lot of our girls to have an American Girl Doll and they all got one.”
Since she began working at Gillette Syverson reports she’s seen Santa Claus many, many times. She thinks Santa has a special place in his heart for Gillette patients and adds he even gets a bit of help from the nurses on the night shift. “The breakroom is sort of a staging area for Santa so the nurses get to pass out gifts,” she says. “It’s very fun.”
Syverson is honored to be part of a dedicated team of workers at Gillette. “We’re all here for the same reason—to help others. We all want to bring light to difficult situations,” she adds. “The nurses have great teamwork and a good work ethic. We get to be together on the holidays. I love my co-workers so it’s my second family on the holiday. It’s comforting that way.”