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Turkey, tinsel, and triage

The highs and lows of working in healthcare on Christmas day

  • By: Guy Rughani
  • Published: 20 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e8229
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2012;20:e8229

It’s 6 am, and as excited children open their stockings and turkeys roast in the oven, in hospitals everywhere, triage midwives are answering calls from anxious mothers-to-be, porters in emergency departments are shifting the third patient of the day up to theatre, and doctors are carrying out their normal duties on the wards. For many of those in healthcare professions, 25 December is just another working day.

“I have worked Christmas day on two occasions since I qualified,” says Michelle McGlen, specialist trainee in forensic psychiatry in Edinburgh. “Once as an FY1 [first-year junior doctor] in medicine, and once as an CT1 [trainee] in psychiatry. It wasn’t my choice, but I kind of accepted I would have to do it at some point.’

McGlen found the wards much quieter than normal, with some patients in a brighter mood, and others very low, desperately missing their families.

“I found it quite

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