Christmas comes early to VGH

If you’ve noticed the feeling that all is merry and bright as you walk around the VGH campus lately, it’s not just the snow.

Christmas spirit has taken VGH by storm! In the true spirit of the holidays, employees are bringing joy to patients (and colleagues alike) across the hospital campus.

Kids creating Christmas cards for patients

Santa poses with Ana Montessori, Pepe Montessori, Matt Brown, Paulina Hnatiuk and the giant basket of cards from their schoolmates.

For Lisette Montessori, LPN, patient care has turned into a family affair.

Lisette was concerned about some of her elderly patients who will be in-hospital over the holidays without their families around. She mentioned this to her kids and they all began brainstorming ways to bring Christmas to those patients.

Tying into their school year’s theme of “caring for our common community,” her kids suggested making Christmas cards for patients unable to go home for the holidays.

The idea snowballed and soon teachers and students in classes from kindergarten to grade seven enthusiastically joined in, creating nearly 100 precious handmade Christmas cards for patients.

“Many of the children can imagine what it would be like if their own grandparents were in the hospital,” says Lisette. “So they’re hoping to bring a little cheer onto the unit with their presence and by leaving behind a bright, handmade card with a loving message.”

Lisette and a couple of students from the school visited the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit the week before Christmas, handing out cards and bringing much joy to patients.

Santa and the kids pose with patient, Bob Kelly.

The visit meant a lot to the patients, several of whom were smiling ear-to-ear as the troupe—Santa in-toe—came by with candy canes and Christmas cards.

The visit was especially moving for patient Bob Kelly. “Christmas is a special time for me,” he says. “For 17 years I was a professional Santa in Ottawa and Vancouver—I even did it for the Prime Minster.” Having spent his life in the service of others and bringing joy to children, the kids’ visit brought the magic of Christmas full circle for him.

Bakers, start your blenders

Cookie contest winner, Marie Brown, occupational therapist, with her winning entry and judges: Bal Bains, nursing unit assistant, Dr. John Street, spine surgeon , and Jessie Rodrigue, operations director, surgical services.

Leanna Ritchie, clinical nurse educator, wanted to spread some Christmas cheer. So, filled with the festive spirit, she spearheaded the Spine Unit’s first Christmas cookie bake-off.

The esteemed panel of judges: Dr. John Street, spine surgeon; Jessie Rodrigue, operations director, surgical services; and Bal Bains, nursing unit assistant, took on the difficult task of trying all six delectable desserts.

Entries were judged on important festive criteria, such as: “Christmasyness,” decoration, taste, texture and scrumptiousness.

Occupational therapist Marie Brown walked away with the winning title for her peppermint Nanaimo bars.

The cookies were then carefully packaged, along with candy canes and chocolates, and distributed to patients on the unit by nursing staff for a little Christmas cheer.

“The patients were thrilled,” Leanne says energetically. “Those who could enjoyed them and the families did as well! I even saw one family member give the nurse a huge hug!”

Dashing door displays decorate department

Winners of best door in show: social workers Laura Vander Steen and Trish Lal-Klima stand in front of their door.

The spirit of the season also struck the neurosciences program on T5/6, which held a door-decorating contest last week. Everyone from leadership to housekeeping rolled up their sleeves, creating fun festive décor for offices and patient spaces.

Vivian Eliopoulos, COO, Vancouver Acute Services, Mary Ackenhusen, VCH president and CEO, and Drs. Thomas Zwimpfer, Thalia Field and Maureen Ceresney judged 18 entries, including the very memorable “Up to snow good” and “Santa’s sack squeeze.”

The grand prize went to Laura Vander Steen and her fellow social workers for their door dubbed “Christmouse Cookie Coma.”

More than bringing mirth and merriment, the decorated doors also helped patients with wayfinding, as the entrances to the gyms and therapy room were transformed by unique and colourful displays.

A-carolling we will go

During the week before Christmas, a group of musically-minded health care workers were busily making spirits bright, performing Christmas carols around VGH.

The annual tradition is meant to bring the holiday spirit to patients and caregivers alike.

“Music is an important part of the holiday season,” says Michael Li, Director, System Improvement Vancouver Decision Support, and organizer of this year’s event. “This is a fun way for us to spread some Christmas cheer to others around the hospital. It’s also a chance for those of us that don’t work directly on the front-line to be more involved in patient care.”

Our shining stars

“My heartfelt thanks to all Vancouver Acute staff for making the holiday season so special for our patients at VGH, UBC Hospital and GF Strong,” says Vivian. “Caring for and bringing joy to others is the true spirit of the holidays and I’m proud to say it’s at the heart of what our teams do all year round.”

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