Giving thanks

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The holiday season is difficult for those who have to work when others celebrate. Their families adjust schedules, develop personal traditions and live a half step removed from their neighbors. Thanksgiving brings us NFL football and nothing says Christmas like an NBA double header. No big deal, we say, since these athletes are well paid and it’s their job to entertain us. But for them to do their job there is a long list of people who remain in the background, invisible to the public, who make the game happen in your living room. From the people who work at the stadium, parking the cars and selling programs to the people in the television studios behind the camera, thousands of people spend their holidays away from their families. It’s their job, too, but less than glamorous.

Hospitals have the same invisible workers who make the people in the spotlight function. The front line people, the doctors and nurses couldn’t do their work without the behind the scenes choreography that allows rooms to be cleaned, shelves restocked with supplies, laundry to be washed and beds made and food served.

We are familiar with any operating room scene from ER or Gray’s Anatomy. The doctor, dressed in a gown, mask covering the face with only a slit for eyes showing, mutters the word…“Scalpel.”

One word, one order. But to get that one tool to the OR when it was needed required plenty of people to do their job. The scalpel began its journey in central supply, traveled to a sterilization area and was bundled into an instrument tray, sent to the specific operating room where a circulating nurse opened the tray and prepared the room for the team to enter, so that the assistant could be ready to hand the scalpel to the surgeon when the word came….”scalpel”. Each step required people to assemble, clean, transport and plan so that the patient laying on the table unconscious from anesthetic didn’t have to wait.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, hospitals function because of those people hidden in the bowels of the building. Without laundry, housekeeping, maintenance, dietary and many others, the showed wouldn’t go on. The nurses and doctors, like the athletes on the court, could not perform without the work done behind the camera. And while patients and families thank the people in the front lines for working the holiday, they may not appreciate how many others have sacrificed being away from family and celebration to make the hospital run.

We don’t high five the guy who sells us a hot dog at the game but perhaps we should cheer those who work behind the scenes, the people who make those of us in front, look good.

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