As if the onslaught of commercial advertisement isn't enough to remind us, Thanksgiving is over, and the winter holiday season has begun. So has that nervous feeling I get in my stomach while calculating how many gifts I still need to buy, versus the balance on my credit card -- which, like a discharged pistol, is still smoking from use.
There is nowhere in the western hemisphere to escape holiday stress. Loading it onto the shoulders of already busy oncology nurses, whose patients always seem to worsen, or expire, around the holidays, can create jumbled feelings of anxiety and guilt.
'Tis the season to practice extra strength self-care and creative gift giving!
If you need an idea for an inexpensive holiday gift for a preceptor, mentor, student, or that special nurse buddy who always has your back, here's an idea: Give him or her a Shift From Hell emergency kit for their locker or fanny pack. The contents will vary with your own creativity, but here are some suggestions gleaned from my 25 years of bedside nursing:
- Nail clippers: for fixing a broken or snagged nail, fast
- An emery board: see above
- A pair of tweezers -- for wayward nasal or eyebrow hairs
- A package of toothpicks: Does anyone share my irrational fear of food stuck in my teeth?
- A small package of antacids: They can mean the difference between leaving a shift early or staying to finish it
- A travel-size package of ibuprofen or acetaminophen for unexpected headaches and minor pain
- A laundry detergent pen or wipes to remove betadine, coffee, or blood stains from scrubs and lab coats before they set.
- Lip balm -- For those shifts when you don't have time to drink enough fluids
- Change for the vending machine -- particularly useful on the night shift
- Gum or breath mints
- A hair tie back-up for the one you wore to work that broke
- A cheap pair of reading glasses: because who can read that tiny print on single dose medication vials?
- Packages of fancy instant coffee, a relaxing, fragrant tea, or cocoa -- for when you finally get a moment to sit down
Remember to keep the supplies miniature. Collect them into a cloth drawstring bag, coffee mug, or Mason jar. Those cosmetic bags you get as a "gift with purchase" from department stores work, too. Add a bow and gift tag: voilą!
If you prefer a gift for each of your coworkers while maintaining a budget, consider buying larger amounts of the supplies, and place them in a basket lined with tissue paper or gift straw, as a group gift available in the staff lounge.
What other items do you consider essential "emergency" items for a rough nursing shift?