Not Home for the Holidays

While the rest of us are gathering around the Thanksgiving table and decking our halls, some of our fellow community members are leaving behind their own families to work long shifts where they will care, protect and serve. This holiday season, we give thanks for their service and sacrifice. 

Elizabeth Green, Nurse Practitioner

Elizabeth Green, neonatal nurse practitioner at St. Luke’s East, is married with three active children ages 6 to 12. She’s also working a 24-hour shift on Christmas this year. Providing intensive care for other people’s babies while being flexible to celebrate with her own family is part of the job, and a loving sacrifice she makes each holiday.

“As hard as it is to leave our families during the holidays, when we come to work and are given the privilege to care for sweet babies, it really is the best feeling,” Green says.

What is your favorite part of serving the community?

“The best part of my job is helping to care for the babies and their families and help them through some of the worst and best days of their lives. Sometimes just listening and providing some perspective to our parents is our greatest gift. Whenever I see a past patient thriving out in the community, I know we had a part in that, and it feels wonderful.”

Do you do anything special at work on holidays?

“In every hospital I’ve worked in over the holidays, we try to have fun and celebrate when we can. Many people bring fun treats and food in, and we can gather when able and eat together in some way. The hospital provides a holiday dinner for staff and families. That helps add a festive mood, too.”

What do you do with your family to celebrate these holidays around your work schedule?

“My extended family has always worked around my schedule when able. My husband and I try as much as possible to keep my kids’ holidays unaffected by my work schedule; however, that is easier said than done. We may wake up earlier on Christmas morning (which they never complain about). Or, Santa may come while I am at work, and I can celebrate when I get home. Either way, I’m grateful for my family’s flexibility and willingness to think outside-the-box when it comes to family gatherings.”

Lisa Huerter, Registered Nurse

For Lisa Huerter, a registered nurse at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, Christmas morning will be characterized by the hustle and bustle of the emergency department, rather than her own two little girls’ frenzy of excitement around the Christmas tree. But as the daughter of a nurse, Huerter grew up accustomed to Christmas or Thanksgiving always being on a different day.

What is your favorite part of serving the community?

“I love taking care of people, and my passion is ER nursing. Being a nurse in the ED at Lee’s Summit Medical Center is very rewarding. Every day is different. We serve the community healthcare that’s genuine and compassionate. Twelve-hour shifts on your feet, and skipped lunches and breaks can be difficult, but at the end of the day, knowing the life we saved or the patient we made feel better makes it all worth it.”

Do you do anything special at work on holidays?

“Holidays in the emergency department are usually very busy, so our tradition is to bring a potluck. We all bring a dish and snack on it when we can.”

What do you do with your family to celebrate these holidays around your work schedule?

“Having to work holidays can be tough to work around. The way I look at it is as long as I have a day with my family together, it doesn’t matter what day it is! Christmas can be two days before! I will say it is hard on Christmas leaving my family to be a nurse for other families, but I chose this job and I love what I do. I choose to do it every day for patients in our community.”

Nathaniel Dody, 911 Dispatcher

Nathaniel Dody, lead communications specialist for the Lee’s Summit Police Department, lives in Clinton with his wife and 11-year-old son. Despite Dody’s 12-hour shift and hourlong commute each way, the family always tries to celebrate together at a holiday shift’s beginning or end. 

What is your favorite part of serving the community?

“Lee's Summit is a great community, and I honestly feel that the majority are thankful for the police department. Unfortunately, in our line of work, we don't always hear about the good, so when a citizen calls or stops by to thank us for our service, it means the world to us. Each year around the holiday season, community members deliver meals, treats and small tokens of appreciation. We’re truly blessed to have so many people show their appreciation for the work we do and for the sacrifices we make to serve the community.”

Do you do anything special at work on holidays?

In the Communications Unit, we hold an annual ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange around the holiday season. In the past, we've filled a stocking up with goodies and passed it around among our co-workers. On the holiday, we usually have a potluck dinner and include the officers who are working.”  

What do you do with your family to celebrate these holidays around your work schedule?

“At home, we always try to do something special on the actual holiday, whether it's breakfast after an overnight shift, or when our son was younger, allowing him to open a few presents on Christmas Eve before bed. With the rest of our family, we usually celebrate the weekend before or after the holiday.”

Officer Fleer

Police Officer, Mission Police Department

What is your title at work and what do you do?

I am Police Officer Jay Fleer. I have worked as a Law Enforcement Officer for 27 years, starting with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, then the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. I have been with the Mission Police Department for 11 years. During my career, I have worked in a variety of roles, including Detention, Patrol, Patrol Supervisor, Special (narcotics) Investigations, Directed Patrol and Community Policing.

I work as a Patrol Officer and at most of the community outreach events for the Mission Police Department. I teach D.A.R.E. at Rushton and Highlands Elementary Schools, and I am the Department Rangemaster and Lead Firearms Instructor. I’m the Department’s “go-to” guy for crime prevention and community education services.

Some of the services that I provide include:

·      Civilian response to critical incident (active shooter, etc.) training

·      Residential and commercial site security surveys

·      Personal safety and self defense

What is your favorite part of serving the community?

My favorite part of serving the community is the personal contact and interaction. I love teaching and empowering people to take care of themselves and make good decisions. I think it is important for the people who live and work in the city to know that we are a part of them and fully invested in helping them to feel safe in the community.

Do you do anything special with your team/coworkers at work on holidays? Any work traditions?

For the past few years, our Fraternal Order of Police Lodge has paid for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to be catered for the officers who work the holidays. If one of us is fortunate enough to live in or near the city, or if their family brings dinner to the station for use, the others will cover calls while our teammates take a meal break with their family.  

What do you do with your family to celebrate these holidays around your work schedule? Do you celebrate at a later or earlier date?  

My family is incredibly understanding and accommodates my schedule with little, if any complaint.  When I work day shift, we celebrate after I’m off duty. When that hasn’t worked out well, we celebrated either the evening before or on my next day off after the holiday.

Has a civilian or community member done (or said) something on a holiday to make you feel needed and appreciated for giving up your time with family? 

I appreciate it when a civilian thanks me for my service and especially if he or she acknowledges my service on the holidays when most everyone else is with family. Sometimes people will drop off goodies at the station. We all appreciate those, especially the portable kind that we can eat as we head out or in our cars (cookies and small packages of snacks).  

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