Hospitals are open 24/7, operating at 100% even on major holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Often, hospital atmospheres can present themselves as sterile and unwelcoming due to the nature of the work. For patients and health care workers spending their holidays in the hospital, this feeling can intensify during holidays or special occasions not spent at home.
However, many Texas hospitals go the extra mile to make their facilities feel especially warm and exciting during the holiday seasons. These efforts boost the morale of admitted patients in need of overnight care and the dedicated health care workers who often spend their holidays at work rather than at home with loved ones.
Here are some Texas hospitals and health systems that go above and beyond to make their facilities feel like home for the holidays.
Children’s Health is known for its over-the-top costume contest among its team members each year for Halloween. The Children’s Health Foundation provides a costume to every patient and the child life department sets up a costume shop for patients and families to go “shopping” for a costume. Members of the patient’s care team will accompany them to the shop and help them pick out the perfect costume. Children’s also provides costumes for siblings that are onsite. Patients then wear their costumes to the Halloween carnival that’s typically held on Oct. 31. Also around Halloween, in collaboration with Child Life, the Women’s Auxiliary celebrates the conclusion of their BOO Yard Sign Challenge fundraising campaign with a Halloween party and treats for patients and families.
During Thanksgiving, Children’s collaborates with Food Services during to help patients make individual pies. The patients get to roll out their crust, pick their filling and make a decorative topping. Once the pies have been carefully put in the pan, the food services team takes them to the cafeteria to bake them, cool them and then deliver them back to patient rooms.
Each year during Christmas time, the Women’s Auxiliary decorates the hospitals with wreaths and trees throughout the campuses to bring cheer to patients, families, and staff. Children’s hosts an annual tree lighting on each hospital’s campus, often featuring a celebrity family lighting the tree with Santa. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and Dallas native Clayton Kershaw was the most recent tree lighter. Currently, Children’s is planning to continue the tradition this year, planning fun activities patients can participate in both by the tree or in their rooms.
Children’s also host team visits, from the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, or visiting team of the Cotton Bowl, as well as visits with Santa. During the pandemic, these visits were conducted virtually. Santa also provides a Storytime in Seacrest Studios, which is broadcasted throughout the campus during the month as appropriate. For team members, Children’s serves holiday meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
Prior to the pandemic, one of the most beloved events by patients and staff was the New Life Symphony performance in the Dallas campus’ Butterfly Atrium. A patient is always identified to direct the symphony during a holiday song. Children’s is hoping to bring this back soon, if not this year.
Last year Children’s started a new tradition of a holiday store for patients who were in the hospital on Christmas Day. Caregivers were invited to shop for their patients and siblings. A wrapping station was also available and staffed by hospital volunteers and team members who helped caregivers make sure each package was wrapped just right. This allowed caregivers the opportunity to choose their child’s gift and when their gifts were given.
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital
While all Memorial Hermann system facilities take part in holiday celebrations, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital goes above and beyond to make sure pediatric patients have fun and uplifting holidays away from home.
Each year for Halloween, staff members participate in a costume contest and host a parade through the halls so children can come to the doorway and see all of the costumes. Whoever wins the costume contest then gets to deliver goodies to all of the patients. Staff members make sure to have different items for patients based on age. In the post-COVID era, staff at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital also host ‘reverse trick-or-treating’ for pediatric patients. Instead of the patients leaving their rooms, staff members go room-to-room and deliver treats to all of the patients.
During Thanksgiving, the Children’s Advisory Council hosts an annual ‘pie night’ where they take a cart of different types of pies and go room to room to offer slices. Typically, there is a craft activity in the hospital’s park play area with a movie for kids. There is also an accompanying activity about being thankful.
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital receives a large amount of donated gifts and items during the holidays. For Christmas, staff host a ‘Pop-Up Holiday Shop’ where parents and patients can ‘shop’ for toys and items and purchase using a ticketing system. There is a wrapping station and gifts get delivered to rooms. There are also multiple events per week with additional donations for patients. For example, Bennett’s Bears donates Build-a-Bears to patients, PAWS therapy dogs do multiple visits, carolers come to sing to patients, and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth students do holiday crafts with patients.
For staff members, units typically do potluck dinners, Secret Santa giveaways, or other holiday-themed activities. Much of the staff at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital receive a lot of joy out of the events listed above during the holidays.
And to ring in the New Year, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital does a balloon drop from the ceiling with a big countdown during the daytime on New Year’s Eve.
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital System
Throughout the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital System and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, celebrations take place throughout the year, recognizing both significant days in the church year, calendar year, as well as mission related days that reflect the 150-plus years of the system’s history and legacy.
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, meals are provided for all CHRISTUS associates. The system also facilitates a traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony at all six hospitals which take place beginning in early December. A long-standing tradition within CHRISTUS, each department is asked to make a Christmas tree ornament that exemplifies specific units or departments and place it on the hospital Christmas Tree at the annual tree lighting ceremonies. For example, security officers once created a ‘parking ticket for Santa and his sleigh’ that was ‘illegally parked in the patient parking,’ the laboratory unit created a star from pipettes and others included Santa and his elves dressed in scrubs.
Oceans Behavioral Hospital
For hospitalized behavioral health patients and those who care for them, it can be difficult spending the holidays at the hospital, and caregivers may experience the added strain of providing care to patients whose symptoms may be exacerbated by unhappy memories associated with the season.
Oceans Healthcare, a behavioral health provider focused on healing and long-term recovery, provides inpatient and outpatient treatment with a special focus on the unique physical and emotional needs of older adults. Across all holidays, Oceans emphasizes a number of efforts to ease the sorrow of being away from home and make its hospitals brighter for its patients and team members.
Palo Pinto General Hospital
Palo Pinto General Hospital has historically celebrated the holiday season with a holiday party which includes good food, music and fellowship. PPGH also uses the night to celebrate its staff, recognizing the employee and manager of the year, along with anniversary awards. In 2018, the hospital introduced the Spirit of PPGH Award as part of its 50th Anniversary Celebration. The Spirit award is given to a team member who goes above and beyond to serve their hospital and community.
In 2020 PPGH canceled its holiday party due to COVID-19, so instead developed its 12 Days of Christmas to show gratitude to the staff. For 12 days the staff is given treats, prizes, and gifts. It also includes a drawing each hour for 12 hours of giveaways, catered meals, a gingerbread house and ugly sweater contests, and the PPGH CEO, Ross Korkmas, is known to dress up as Santa Ross. The initiative was such a hit with staff in 2020 that PPGH has continued to do the 12 days of Christmas every year since and plan to kick it off with the holiday party again this year.