COVID-19 restrictions pose new challenges when it comes to ways to celebrate the holidays at your healthcare business. For many, 2020 will go down as the year of stress— a year of fear, furloughs, shutdowns, isolation, child care issues, and business closures…

Keeping morale up is more important than ever. Many employees and patients face loneliness, money stress, and uncertainty. Now is an ideal time to foster connections between team members, and also with your patients.

In this blog, you’ll find ideas to create holiday cheer at your medical practice, hospice, or hospital floor.


When choosing holiday activities, look for the ones that foster connections between people. Due to the pandemic measures, a greater than usual number of your staff and patients may be suffering from loneliness. Most people can relate to the fact that you can feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Connection is key to alleviating depression and stress among employees and patients.

Some possible ways to make connections with patients could include conversation about hometowns, hobbies, pets, etc. Make sure to give your team the time to connect with patients.

Gratitude & Charity

Studies have shown that gratitude counters depression. Consider ways for your team to get together and express gratitude. Create a break room collage of what each team member is grateful for. Or get consensus among team members to adopt a special holiday cause, such as gifts for foster children.

Are there opportunities to partner with other organizations in the community to have a bigger impact? For example, one children’s hospital partnered with the local police department to fly Santa in on a SWAT helicopter to deliver presents.  

Create Festive Work Spaces

One way to get everyone in the holiday spirit while maintaining social distancing is to hold a decorating contest. Hold a hospital floor decorating contest, a cubicle decorating contest, or even a virtual office decorating contest for telecommuters.

For hospital inpatients and hospice patients, consider festive lights, garlands, holiday-themed movies, or table-top mini trees. Some healthcare facilities have brought in therapy dogs dressed in reindeer antlers to deliver holiday cheer. For families, facilities can decorate lobbies for the holidays and play music in common areas. Consider holiday themed bulletin boards in patient rooms.

Holiday Messaging

To keep your employees in the holiday spirit, consider sending out daily holiday-themed emails, or intranet postings, such as:

  • Fun IT tips, such as how to change your Zoom meeting background to a Holiday themed background.
  • A holiday photo contest of employees, their children, or pets
  • Put together a collage of funny employee “Pinterest fails” such as lopsided gingerbread houses or less than perfect cookies.
  • Have a holiday meme contest and give away prizes
  • Send out gratitude themed quotes or holiday stories from around the world.

Alternatives to the Holiday Luncheon

If your team is hesitant about sitting around the table in a large group, you can find alternatives to the company holiday luncheon.  Give staff some down time during work hours to attend.

  • Weather permitting, consider the possibility of dining outdoors. Outdoor heaters are fairly inexpensive and you can decorate patios or even a section of the parking lot.
  • Consider gathering everyone’s favorite recipes and a putting together a PDF e-cookbook with staff photos and stories.
  • Host a Zoom event with games and prizes.
  • Create individually packaged, cute “to-go” holiday plates for employees.

Beware the Grinch

Managers often balk at holiday parties due to liability concerns, such as alcohol consumption and driving. Others fear stepping on political correctness landmines when it comes to different religious holidays. But it’s a mistake to use COVID-19 as an excuse to skip over the holidays completely.

An MGMA survey  indicates that 46 percent of participating practices plan to give holiday bonuses, while only 11 percent plan to have a holiday party. We think it’s a mistake cancel the holidays and rely on bonuses alone. There’s no need to curtail the festivities entirely. Also, many providers, subsisting on stimulus and loan packages, cannot afford lavish Christmas bonuses this year. The holidays are an opportunity to make your healthcare facility memorable to both patients and employees and to celebrate our many blessings.