For patients experiencing illness and the caregivers who show up to support them 24/7, how can holiday festivity be brought within the hospital walls? In the cancer unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Thanksgiving arrived in the form of a potluck with green-bean casserole and pumpkin whoopie pies, a crowd favorite made by nurse Olivia Marshall.
“It doesn’t seem like I’m spending time away from my family,” Marshall, told The New York Times. “It’s like I’m with another part of my family.”
Here, we’ve rounded up stories from across Partners hospitals, showing that holiday spirit can be found everywhere.
Songs of Comfort and Joy
For five years now, the halls of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Shapiro Cardiovascular Center have echoed each Christmas Day with uplifting carols sung by the Cardiotonics, an ensemble of physicians, residents, and other members of the care team (featured in image above.) As they make their way through holiday favorites such as “Silent Night”, “Jingle Bells”, “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”, “Let It Snow”, and “Feliz Navidad” at patients’ bedsides, patients unable to join their families’ and friends’ celebrations find solace in the music.
For the more than 20 members of the Cardiotonics, founded by Thomas Michel, MD, PhD, a Senior Physician in Cardiology at the Brigham, those musical moments are often referenced as among the most meaningful of their clinical training and work.
“No patient wants to be in the hospital on Christmas, and many patients and their families appreciate that their caregivers try to make the day special in a positive way. We always take requests, and tailor our songs to the patient’s taste and emotional state,” says Michel, an amateur accordion player. “Making music for our patients is a privilege, and allows us to provide a different kind of care as we create a kind of musical and spiritual partnership with our patients and their families.”
A musical tradition is also observed by staff and patients at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, which hosts an annual Boston Pops concert, this year featuring a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by WBZ’s Lisa Hughes.
Sharing Gratitude, by Giving Back
At Spaulding, the spirit of the season is reflected through generosity, as its 26 outpatient centers and four inpatient facilities come together to gather food for more than 30 Eastern Massachusetts food pantries. Organized by staff who have collected and transported food for families in need for the past four years, the effort brought well over 3,000 pounds of food items to families in need in 2018.
“Our nonprofit partners have noted how critical it is this time of year to have stocked shelves, and are especially grateful to have these items from Spaulding for the individuals and families they serve,” says David Storto, President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners Continuing Care. “This is our way of helping the communities we call home have a brighter holiday season.”
In a separate initiative, staff at Spaulding Hospital Cambridge organize a giving tree to enable team members to give gifts to children of employees who may not have the resources to purchase them. In 2018, 47 families with a combined 97 children registered with human resources, prompting colleagues to donate clothing, toys, and gift cards. The response was so overwhelming that there were gifts to spare, sent to Cambridge’s Transition House, which has provided domestic violence intervention and prevention services for over 40 years.
Sometimes, giving back at the holiday season means opening our doors to other critical community workers. This Thanksgiving, when the Sandwich Police and Fire Departments’ plans to host a festive meal for firefighters and police officers fell through, Spaulding Cape Cod welcomed them in for a meal with its own staff.
Banner image: Members of the Cardiotonics — an all-volunteer holiday caroling group comprising Brigham faculty, staff and trainees — gather for a photo on Christmas Day 2018 in between performances for patients and their families in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center. (Photo credit: Brigham Health)