You’ve heard of “The Elf on the Shelf®,” right? Well, how about the “Elf at the Nurses’ Station,” “The Elf on the Monitor” and the “The Elf in the PACU?”
For the past week, as the staff in Akron Children’s GOJO Outpatient Surgery Center has been taking part in some elf magic just like many families of young children who are fans of “The Elf on a Shelf” book.
Each day, they look for a trio of elves who change locations and appear to engage in fun antics overnight – golfing, playing poker, downhill skiing through a cloud of mini-marshmallow “snow.” They also mimic the work in the unit, wearing protective masks and surgical caps, and ready to take vitals.
The elves – Marty in the post-surgery unit, Vicki in the pre-surgery unit and a yet to be named third elf – come with crossword puzzles, holiday trivia and there are even prizes for those who participate. Another highlight: the letters positioned near the elves. They are full of insider jokes and name dropping amidst the holiday cheer.
One day the “education coordinator” for Santa’s Workshop sent Marty a letter informing him he was behind on his CME (hospital lingo for continuing medical education).
“I have run various reports and learned you have only completed the Cookie/Candy competencies,” she wrote. “You still need to complete Advanced Christmas Wrapping and Bow Making, Reindeer Care and Maintenance, Creating a Naughty/Nice List in Excel, and more.”
Best of all, the mastermind behind all of the fun remains a mystery.
“I get here at 6:30 a.m., and it’s already set up,” said Aaron Flickinger, OR technician. “It has to be someone who comes in very early or stays late.”
The children ready to undergo surgery also enjoy spotting the elf, an especially nice distraction if they are nervous.
“We love Marty,” said Child Life Specialist Alisa Mills. “It’s so funny. The person [or persons] doing this has a great sense of humor.”
Several nurses said it is obvious that the master elf is listening to their conversations and working them into the next day’s letters.
“We have enjoyed coming in each day and trying to find the elves and see what mischief they have been up to,” said Elaine Christopher, a nurse in the unit. “The joy and anticipation that we see on the patients faces when they see the displays is wonderful. It has definitely added to the group cohesiveness. The amount of time spent on this is greatly appreciated.”
Nurse Denise Young has been off this week but didn’t want to miss out.
“I have been having coworkers send me the pictures,” she said. “It’s been so much fun for staff and for the patients. I don’t want to miss anything.”