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Lexington Regional Health Center prepares for the long winter night on Christmas Eve.

It won’t be dinner as usual tonight. It is promised to be more festive and elegant, with oyster and potato soup as options. Dressed in scrubs and some wearing their whitecoats, they will shuffle into the cafeteria and settle in for a traditional holiday feast, well aware that tonight, as in years past, they can expect a few more emergencies related to holiday travel.

It’s the night before Christmas at Lexington Regional Health Center in Lexington, Neb., situated just off of Highway 80. In the past, snow and ice have kept emergency personnel busy at this time of year. Tonight, however, the weather is expected to be partly cloudy with an overnight low of 13 degrees. Snow and flurries are expected tomorrow – Christmas Day.

“As we think about the holidays and Christmas Eve in particular, we know that we will still see roughly the same amount of emergencies (maybe a few more),” says Leslie Marsh, Lexington’s chief executive officer, who last year was named in Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the nation’s top 130 women working in healthcare. “This means that our radiology and lab must remain open and staffed as they are every day. Normally, the lab and radiology departments are staffed until midnight then they are ‘on-call’ until the next morning at 7 a.m.” 

Although the hospital’s urgent care unit usually remains open until 8 p.m., tonight, on Christmas Eve, the operation will be closing down at 6. And this situation could result in more emergency department (ED) visits, says Marsh, noting that the ED is staffed, as usual, with physicians who are on campus and available 24/7.

“The med-surg and OB floor will be staffed as they normally are, and we will have anesthesia and OB on call as well,” Marsh said. “Many of the tasks (on Christmas Eve) will involve ensuring that there is adequate staffing – so if there is increased activity on the floor, we may need to call for extra help.”

Tonight, the staff will be preparing for automobile accidents, expecting more trauma visits than usual. The hospital is located adjacent to Interstate 80 and is near a busy intersection.

“We have a trauma call protocol so that will be activated as it normally is,” Marsh explained. “We (also) have Somali and Hispanic interpreters in-house until 6 p.m., then they go ‘on-call.’”

Marsh says the hospital’s primary service area is a diverse community represented by 43 counties.

“We welcome them, one and all,” she said.

The more rural areas run north and south of the hospital and include towns such as Cozad, Gothenburg, Brady, Eustis, Elwood, Overton, Curtis, Elm Creek, Sumner, Oconto, and Broken Bow.  

“Three of these communities have a critical access hospital (CAH), but we provide a wide array of services,” Marsh said. “Many communities, like Broken Bow, have stopped providing OB services, so we do see some people for those services. We have an urgent care and that pulls people from as far west as Brady and east to Kearney.”  

Those who are dining tonight in the cafeteria likely didn’t work last Christmas Eve, as the hospital trades off holidays. They’ll also receive holiday pay and won’t work next Christmas Eve.

“We understand that illness and emergencies don’t recognize holidays,” Marsh said. “While we provide the same services as we do every day of the year, it is a nice time to recognize those people who give their lives to serve others; so it is a great time to remind patients and visitors, along with your friends and neighbors, to thank or give a shout-out to their healthcare provider.”

Marsh calls the doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, and radiology techs “purpose-driven angels (who) chose to work in healthcare to help others.”  

“One team member, who was working on Thanksgiving, responded to a visitor’s question this way (about not being with family on Thanksgiving): ‘this is my second family, and it is rewarding and gratifying to spend time with my work family helping people in need of care,’” Marsh recalled. “I was sharing this story with our leadership team, thanking them for their commitment to service, and they said: ‘well, we enjoy our colleagues – imagine how the patient and their family feel: these are the people that suffer most. They are obviously sick and or injured; many of them are suffering. It is the people we care for that are negatively impacted by spending time in or at the hospital during the holidays.”  

“If we can make their day, night, or hour just a little better, then we benefit,” Marsh said. “We wish everyone a safe holiday season regardless of the holidays they recognize and celebrate.”

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Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the program host and executive producer of Monitor Monday.

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