Sian Aston, Junior Ward Sister on Pelican Ward, has volunteered to work over Christmas for the past two years. Here she discusses her memories of working at GOSH over the festive period.
“I worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year and Christmas Day the year before. I’m always quite keen to work over Christmas. I started working at GOSH in 2016 so have worked there since I qualified. No one wants to be in hospital over Christmas, and if you can be part of helping it still be a magical time for patients and their families, even though they’re not at home, it’s amazing. I see my family on other days around Christmas anyway, so I really don’t mind. GOSH is just a nice place to be and the build up to the day is really fun, like with the Play team making the decorations and getting the kids involved.
“I’ve never seen it as a negative thing. I have friends who say they don’t know how I can work on Christmas, but it’s actually really lovely and I don’t mind at all – I always offer to work!”
What is your favourite thing about working at GOSH over Christmas?
“Almost the build-up is better than the actual day sometimes! I love making the decorations with the patients and helping the Play team make the little bundles of presents the patients get to open on Christmas Day. We’re really lucky at GOSH as we tend to get a lot of donations of presents around Christmas.
“I remember last year, on Christmas Eve, we got all the presents together in little pillow cases and then on the overnight, we were putting them out on the wards on the patient’s beds. It was so lovely to be able to get the children really excited about the presents they were going to be able to open! We also managed to get some food and drink together for the parents as well, so they could enjoy their own little thing as well. I mean, it’s no Christmas dinner is it, but it was still lovely for them to have some of their own things to enjoy in their room.
“I think the build-up of getting everything ready, knowing how much of a difference it’s going to make on the actual day is probably the best part.
“Normally as part of the build-up, we have things like celebrity visits which the children love. Obviously this year it’s going to look very different, and we currently can’t have any siblings visit the wards. In the ward I work on, we really do focus on getting as many children home for Christmas, at least getting them 24 hours at home, so they can have that time at home and then come back. So we don’t know how it’s going to be this year. It almost feels even more important to get children home for Christmas.”
"It might be more of the case this year of helping them make their own Christmas decorations in their own rooms rather than in communal spaces on the wards. A lot of patients are staying in their rooms more, due to all the isolation.”
Any standout memories from working at GOSH over festive period?
“I remember last year I had this five-year-old and she asked me how Santa was going to get here – this was in Autumn time when we were starting to get everything ready for Christmas. I just had to quickly think of a story, about Santa’s sleigh with his reindeer arriving on the roof and how we’ve given Father Christmas a little swipe card so he can get onto all the wards to give his presents out to everyone! It’s really surprising how quickly you can come out with something like this when you need to, even the parents sometimes look at you and think, I don’t know how you just answered that! You definitely get lots of children thinking, well I’m not at home, so how does Father Christmas know I’m here?
“I remember this five-year-old was involved in writing letters to Santa, just to make sure he knew they weren’t going to be at home this year. We also told them that we have the elves who come in and ask the staff about who’s going to be on the wards this year, so we tell them how good the children have been and stuff like that. Children almost panic about how Santa will get in, how will he know that I’m here, so we’re often comforting them and coming up with stories to make sure they know they won’t be forgotten about. You’re almost helping the parents as well, as they are just so relieved that you have been able to answer that question!”
Find out more about GOSH Children's Charity Home for Christmas campaign