A Practice Manager’s Guide to Surviving Christmas

Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill to all PMs, when stockings overflow with gifts from grateful staff, patients queue to serenade the practice with carols and chestnuts roast over an open fire - risk assessment pending. Believe it or not though, it’s also a time when the odd thing can go wrong.

With that in mind, here’s FPM’s essential guide to surviving Christmas for practice managers, both in and out of work!


The Work Christmas Party – This could be a whole survival guide on its own! If you are in charge or organising things, keep it simple, ensure everyone feels included, try to offer a choice (but not too much lest you never get an answer) and lay out some ground rules.

The dress code should be clear, alcohol consumption should be within reason and religious beliefs need to be respected. If someone else is in charge – dress appropriately, don’t drink too much, mingle and don’t talk too much about work!


Be Mindful – Christmas can be a wonderful time but for many it can conjure memories of past times and people that are no longer around. If possible, try to tackle the loneliness that can affect many older patients - run a coffee morning or a buddy scheme where a patient may be able to spend time with others over the festive period. 

Also be mindful of health. It would be silly to chastise anyone for overindulging over this period, I bet by the time you read this I’ll be on my 1000th mince pie! However just be mindful of trying to maintain a small level of wellbeing, like a walk after dinner.


Parties at Home – If you’re the host, maximise the space at your disposal. It’s important that people feel they don’t have to stay cramped in the lounge or making small talk in the kitchen (especially whilst you’re stuck balancing three oven trays, four drinks and a partridge in a pear tree!)

If there are children coming maybe offer a bedroom with a TV so they can watch Elf while the older generation tune in to It’s a Wonderful Life. Plus, if certain relatives don’t always see eye to eye unless bidding for your attention, distract them with little jobs. Aunty Dot can pour the bubbles while Aunty Aggy puts a film on for the kids (helpfully ensuring both are out of your way).


Don’t Be On Your Own – After a tough year it can seem tempting to shut out the world and enjoy some ‘me time’. Although yes, self-care is important, remember to spend some quality time with friends and family. Put some plans in place - it doesn’t have to be every day but get out there, take in a show or go for a nice meal.


Limit the Opportunities for Aggravation - During the festive period, being cooped up with others in tight environments can and inevitably will lead to arguments breaking out. There are steps you can take for damage control; allot some TV time or let everyone pick one show or movie with such fandangled things as Plus 1 channels and catch-up TV – that way no-one should miss out on their favourites.

If Nana gets a little controversial after a few sherries coax water in between courses or be prepared to change the subject quickly. As for tech at the dinner table – it’s barred! Dinner lasts for what - an hour, hour and half? Everyone can go that long without tweeting or texting everyone.


Aim for Personal - Not Perfect – Try not to get caught up in the ‘keeping up with Joneses’ mentality - Christmas isn’t about having the best decorations or overpriced gifts and it definitely shouldn’t put you in debt for the next twelve months!

Set expectations and be honest – my method is setting budgets with those I’m close with and not buying gifts for those I’m even closer with - our agreement is that we spend time together, such as going to the pictures or making each other dinner.


Ultimately it’s about spending time with loved ones and enjoying each other’s company, so do try to avoid getting swept up in the madness of Christmas shopping, and remember - potatoes done four different ways for five people is definitely enough!

Lastly – Enjoy! Merry Christmas from everyone at FPM!

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