EDITOR'S NOTE: Kimberly Mares last name has been fixed throughout.
On Thanksgiving Day, many across Lamar County will be pre-heating their ovens, setting the table and preparing for family visits. But not Dr. Pia Lippincott, M.D. Instead, she’ll head to Paris Regional Medical Center where she’s on call for the day — an annual sacrifice she’s willing to make, she said. After all, she gets Christmas off.
“I always take call on Thanksgiving,” said Lippincott, a native of Sweden. “My co-workers are from here, so to them, Thanksgiving is a very important holiday. The holiday that is important to me is Christmas because I have a 12-year-old daughter. But my husband is very used to running Thanksgiving on his own.”
Lippincott joins dozens of others at the hospital who sacrifice holiday time with their friends and family to provide services to others. Some, like nurse Alli Lancaster, know what to expect. Lancaster grew up in a nursing family, she said. Rearranging holiday cheer is her normal.
“Yes, it stinks. But coming from a nursing family, we kind of learned that holidays aren’t about a specific day or time, but the memories that you can make when you are together,” she said. “It stinks not getting to watch the Macy’s Day parade, but I still get to watch it with my patients up here. And they miss their family, too.”
From nutrition services to surgical units, staff across the hospital pitch in and make the most of their time together. They host potlucks on Thanksgiving Day and spend time catching up with one another — and their patients.
Kimberly Mares is a security officer and previously worked the psychiatric wing on Paris Regional’s South Campus. While she misses her family, she doesn’t mind working holidays as much because she’s close with her co-workers, she said.
“I feel like this job is my family,” she said. “Whenever I’m away from my biological family, of course, I feel like work is my family. You know, that’s where all my friends are most of the time.”
Many of the staff described the holiday atmosphere as “laid back.” While there were multiple patients on the floor last year, the hospital is more relaxed than usual on Thanksgiving, Lancaster said.
“The patients are very grateful,” she said.
Kathie Smith, a material clerk and food services worker, is taking a kitchen shift this Thanksgiving so a co-worker can be home with their family. She described the holiday atmosphere as “lots of laughter.”
“I just try and do for other people that don’t have the opportunity to be with their families,” she said. “There’s sometimes stress, but always laughter. Always laughter and goofing around.”
Hospital CEO Steve Hyde said the medical center team is “incredibly grateful” for the staff it has.
“All of our team members come on board understanding that our doors never close, but that doesn’t make it any easier to be away from your loved ones during the holidays,” Hyde said in a statement. “We could not continue to operate or offer the standard of care we do without the dedicated people who selflessly choose others ahead of themselves, and we are incredibly grateful to have them.”
The feeling about the job is mutual.
“I would describe it as rewarding,” Lancaster said. “It’s a blessing to be able to help people.”