Have a happy and stress-free Christmas and New Year

It has been a difficult year for nurses, but there are some bright spots on the horizon

It has been a difficult year for nurses, but there are some bright spots on the horizon

Picture: iStock

The festive season is here and most nurses will, at some point, work over the holiday period.

Nurses sometimes struggle to blend the pressures of the party season and their professional roles to ensure that their family and friends do not lose out.

Judiciously juggling competing pressures is a nursing skill, honed to perfection in the NHS.

But even the best advanced planning can go awry, and this is one reason that the season can be so stressful, particularly for families.

Pressure of expectation

Along with the celebration, many parents may feel the pressure of expectation and the fear of not living up to it.

This is especially the case for parents who live on the margins – single parents, the homeless, those living on universal credit, immigrants or asylum seekers.  

The commercialisation of Christmas, with children’s expectations being fuelled by advertisements and social media, can take its toll on families, especially those who are already struggling. 

Any increase in anxiety could exacerbate a pre-existing mental health issue and turn a critical situation into a crisis.

Enforced family gatherings can also increase the risks of domestic crisis that, even if it stops short of violence, can still have an impact on children.  

Less support

Avenues of support, such as the GP surgery and walk-in centres, may reduce their hours over Christmas and the New Year.

This results in more families seeking healthcare in overburdened, overstretched and understaffed emergency departments, some of which may not be suitable for children. 

Families who have experienced bereavement and trauma during past festive periods may have unpleasant memories flooding back.

The risk of the sublimation of trauma and ignoring the warning signs could mean the suppressed emotion will return unexpectedly and overwhelmingly at some future date.

Children’s nurses are well placed to detect stress, help, support and direct families to the appropriate services.  

Bright horizon

Some of the bleakest moments many of us will remember occurred over the past year, but there are some bright spots on the horizon.

Mental health is going to receive some extra funds, although not enough for those working in child and adolescent mental health services, who will think it should be more.  

Even more positively, and at long last, prenatal and infant mental health is getting attention from MPs.

The Neonatal Transformational Review might start its implementation phase during 2019 and could make real differences to how some services are delivered.

This may help the government achieve its ambition to halve the rate of stillbirth and neonatal deaths, and reduce the number of children affected by brain injury.  

Also on the horizon are national guidelines on early warning scores for infants and children for England. Already implemented in Wales and Scotland, these guidelines are long overdue in England.

The government has also made good on their commitment to childhood obesity and progress on this will continue to be made during 2019.  

Recommendations are to be made on the self-identification of gender following consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The numbers who will benefit from this are likely to be small, but it is one more step towards a more inclusive society.

There could be some positive changes indeed for 2019.

About the author

Doreen_CrawfordBy Doreen Crawford, consultant editor, Nursing Children and Young People and nurse adviser with consultancy Crawford McKenzie

This article is for subscribers only