By Michael L. Weaver, MD, FACEP, CDM
Medical Director, Clinical Forensics
Saint Luke’s Health System
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. As an emergency room physician for more than 35 years and one of the few single guys in my group, I always volunteered to work Thanksgiving and Christmas shifts. I enjoyed filling in for physician colleagues who had children and large extended families. It allowed them time to share in family celebrations and eliminated their challenges of coordinating family get-togethers and preparing children for the surprise of their young lives. This was especially true for the younger docs in my group who needed to help Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning to complete delivery of goodies to curious little ones.
My family is small, so we were flexible around those times. We were able to move our dinner time to earlier or later in the day. Plus, working on a holiday was actually fun for me! It gave me the opportunity to wear one of the many holiday-themed ties I had accumulated over the years. You know, those ties with a large turkey or pictures of Santa Claus on them that you can only wear during the holiday season. My favorite was a holly bow tie that lit up. I loved wearing the red Santa hat or a gold bell around my neck. It seemed to always make the children smile. We also would give out candy canes to everyone – except those with gastrointestinal problems!
It became somewhat of an annual ritual to see my Jewish or Muslim colleagues (most of whom had celebrations different from Christmas) also working the night shift. Sometimes the emergency room would slow down after 11:00 p.m. It was then that we had a chance to share stories, catch up with each other, and be grateful that we were there to help patients who came through our doors.
In the emergency room, you never know who’s going to come in and with what injury or illness. That kind of event during a holiday increases the impact for both the patient and their family. We must be prepared, compassionate and understanding, knowing the emergency room is the last place patients want to be, especially during the holidays. At the end of my shifts when I had the opportunity to spend holiday time with my family and significant other, I felt an even greater sense of gratitude that I’d been able to give back and provide health care at a very special time to those in need. Deep down, we experienced a touch of holiday spirit and gratitude—and most of all, appreciation for what we do. Wishing you a healthy and enjoyable holiday season.
Dr. Michael L. Weaver is Medical Director of Clinical Diversity. He provides oversight of St. Luke’s Health System’s patient-focused diversity, equity and inclusion processes. In addition, as System Medical Director of the Clinical Forensics Program, he advises clinicians on the treatment of patients who are victims of crimes, such as a child or elderly abuse, sexual assault, interpersonal violence, or strangulation.
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