The Elves Mission for Patient Safety

Elves increase awareness of patient safety while spreading Christmas joy. Nurses General Nursing Article


The Elves Mission for Patient Safety

Being a new member of the nursing department, Alexis quickly realized the challenges the team faced. COVID was taking its toll. Everyone was just tired. Tired of working extra shifts. Tired of feeling helpless. Tired of wondering if we would ever “be normal” again. Although everyone had hoped this holiday season would be different, it quickly shaped up to be much like 2020.  

The pandemic was on its fourth official surge. The news outlets continued to report the number of new cases in each county every day. Those whose symptoms quickly became unmanageable at home, sometimes waited hours to be seen. There never seemed to be enough beds to meet the demand. More and more patients were boarded in the Emergency Department as the inpatient units were full. As soon as a bed was cleaned and readied, the nurses reassured and attempted to settle the next patient struggling to breathe.  

COVID didn’t just focus on the elderly anymore. This newest variant was less discriminating. More staff were testing positive creating staffing shortages. Younger patients, many of them well known in the community, were succumbing to the virus, leaving the air feeling heavier. Although the visiting policies were more relaxed than they were previously, patients and their families still struggled to choose a “designated visitor” often upset with the rules.  Everyone was doing their best, but often felt as if the extra effort wasn’t quite enough. 

Alexis wanted to spread some holiday cheer to the team. She wondered what she could do to help bring a little bit of Christmas joy to those around her. Knowing how her family enjoyed a little elf moving around their house during the month of December, she quickly went to work. After engaging a few other co-conspirators, the plan was put in place. Not long after, a few unexpected guests arrived. Four red little elves, Tinsel (Emergency Department), Angelica (Acute Care), Mr. Bones (Orthopedics), and Codey (Critical Care) made their inaugural trip to the hospital. But they weren’t like other visitors; they had a special mission.  

Unlike the other elves that were sent from the north pole on reconnaissance missions for Santa to children’s homes tasked to report back “good or bad behavior”, these elves had a different assignment. They were to encourage positive patient outcomes by watching over the quality and safety of care. Each day that target goals were met in the categories of patient falls, indwelling foley catheter usage and patient throughput, the elves sprang into action. The elves moved within each department as the units accomplished their quality goals. Interestingly, the elves seemed to get into more shenanigans as outcomes improved.

Some of the elves tried to assist the nurses in their day-to-day tasks. Cody volunteered to work in the COVID unit and was seen wearing Personal Protective Equipment. Angelica was hanging from the shelf in the storage room reminding the nurses to label the IV tubing with date stickers.  Some of the elves got into mischief during their visit. Tinsel was noted to be peering out of a clear plastic lock box routinely used for parenteral narcotics.  One afternoon, Mr. Bones was noted to be using a level 1 mask as a hammock taking a nap, while Angelica encouraged self-care by taking a bubble bath in a “hat” commode specimen container. The elves found new ways each day to elicit smiles and the occasional chuckle.  

The elves not only provided a fun distraction from COVID, but they also raised awareness of the importance of keeping our patients safe. Our CEO commented in a recent email to the staff “Kudos to Alexis for finding a creative way to highlight harm reduction measures within the Hospital and increase awareness of throughput. Staff members have enjoyed the elves' “visits” and the activity provided much-needed joy on the units.”

One of the Department Directors is hopeful that the elves will return next year. Whether or not COVID continues to invade the walls of our hospital, many of us look forward to Tinsel, Angelica, Mr. Bones, and Cody arriving for a second tour of duty. Maybe they will even bring more troops along to deploy in other departments to carry out the mission of patient safety.

Jennifer Miller RN has 26 years experience and specializes in Leadership/Management/Educator.

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4 Articles; 2,467 Posts

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

On the right day that could certainly bring a smile! Thanks for sharing the story, and good for Alexis for finding a creative way to keep a focus on safety in difficult times. 

allnurses Guide

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

4 Articles; 4,831 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life).

I have a shungite stone pendant that a coworker (Who knows I like crystals) gave to me. I wear it every day as it is supposed to ward of negative energies. I don't really believe this but it is a conversation starter. So one of the doctor's asked me about it and what it was for and I said it's to ward of off ELFS (Extreme low frequency waves). He then asked if I had a lot of trouble with elves. My response "Only when they dress up as garden gnomes and stalk me!" We are an acute psych unit and all a bit nutty at times.


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