5 gifts for providers and patients

This holiday season, focus on the gifts you can give and receive every day with true connections

It’s not just during the holiday season that we exchange presents. Giving happens throughout the entire year, but if we can’t let ourselves notice the every day, unwrapped and unannounced gestures of care and compassion in our lives, then we just can’t get to appreciate the beautiful gifts that they are.

This past year will go down in history for the sheer scale of strain, strife and stress that 2020 has caused in both healthcare and the world in general. So, I’ve been thinking about how best to launch from one disastrous year into what looks likely to be a continuation of pandemic procedures, precautions and PPE.

There are a few things that I suspect as you read on.

  • You’re tired of trawling through articles, podcasts and videos about how to get through what may seem like the most trying of situations right now (I promise not to take up too much time).
  • You may be missing home, loved ones or general normality in your EMS role and beyond (I won’t add insult to injury by trying to convince you there’s any positive to that – it’s disheartening and it’s understandable to be feeling this way).
  • If you’re still reading at this point, then a little glimmer of hope exists in your mind that something worthwhile may result from efforts in reframing this year (let’s hope I don’t disappoint).

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Ask a simple question during an in-between moment

A single question can unlock memories that will distract your patient from their current pain — and fill your day

Carry on with me as I outline a quick and easy-to-follow holiday list of presents you can give to yourself and your patients – potential gifts that you may benefit from giving and receiving now and into the future, no matter what it may hold.

  1. Notice your acts of kindness. Acts of kindness may come naturally to you, and the actions themselves may not be anything new in your routine, but pay close attention to how they catch the light like tinsel – the smiles that arise, the tears that dry and the tense situations that dissolve. Quietly and privately acknowledge your efforts, because this gift that you give can be returned just as often, in the form of rewarding reminders of the difference that you can make in prehospital care.
  2. Humbly accept words of thanks that the general public has been desperate to bestow upon EMS since this pandemic began. As with any other thoughtful exchange, be sure to offer the same level of respect and appreciation in return, to every patient. Like a delicate decoration hanging from the tree, widespread regard will only last if we handle it with care and treasure the fragile beauty of this gift.
  3. Be as kind to yourself as you are to all others. This one may feel selfish or indulgent at first glance, but the two-way exchange with patients will soon become clear. Increased self-compassion enhances interpersonal interaction, allowing those we care for to benefit as a direct result. Just as fairy lights in the windows of our homes bring warmth and happiness to us, they brighten the view for everyone on the outside looking in.
  4. Treat the patient’s wish list with as much reverence as your own. Every EMT, firefighter and medic covets the chance for their concerns to be heard and validated. Any organization’s failure to comprehend the importance of listening to personnel only emphasizes the value in this simple gesture, hence the reason it’s such a popular topic of EMS conversation. Affording that generosity to our patients may mean just as much to them as it does to us, perhaps even more.
  5. Deliver only your best, no matter how many reindeer may be required to drag the weight of a sleigh full of stressors. While it may seem like a one-sided finale in these 5 festive gift suggestions, it really does work both ways. Meeting expectations and needs will not only be appreciated by those in your care, it will also free you up from dealing with the regret, reproach and reaction that never fails to arise from dissatisfying and disappointing levels of service on scene.

Despite being based in different EMS services, states, countries and circumstances, each of us works for the same cause. I wish you, your loved ones and your patients a happy, healthy, safe and satisfying year ahead.

Read next: 4 things to explain to patients to increase their comfort and compliance


  1. Blutch, K. & Neff, K. D. (2018). New frontiers in understanding the benefits of self-compassion. Self and Identity, 17(6).  https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2018.1508494
  2. Dalvandi, A., Vaisi-Raygani, A., Nourozi, K. Ebadi, A & Rahgozar, M. (2019). The importance and extent of providing compassionate nursing care from the viewpoint of patients hospitalized in educational hospital in Kermanshah – Iran 2017. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 7(6). https://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2019.204
  3. Goodrich, J. (2016). What makes a compassionate relationship between caregiver and patient? Findings from the “anniversary” Schwartz Rounds. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 3(8). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40639-016-0026-7

This article was originally posted Dec. 3, 2020. It has been updated.

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