Gingerbread House Contest Stokes Pride, Creativity, Competitive Spirit Among Employees

As part of Happy Healing Days, Johnston Health held a gingerbread house contest this month among hospital departments. Smithfield surgical services won the award for most teamwork, and same-day surgery won for best design. Patient services administration garnered the judges’ choice award, and respiratory therapy in Clayton received an honorable mention. Above, from left, employees representing Smithfield surgical services during judging were: Angie Parker, CNA; Donna Thorne, RN; and Mark MacLean, OR tech.

Building gingerbread houses is typically a holiday activity enjoyed by families around the kitchen table.

So when Johnston Health introduced a gingerbread house contest to its annual Happy Healing Days, the organizer of the event wasn’t sure it would fly.

“I knew our employees were creative and competitive,” said Amber Stanley, patient experience specialist. “But I didn’t know what to expect.” To help the departments get started, she gave out starter kits that included a can of icing, a box of graham crackers, and a cardboard base. There were few, if any, rules, and an invitation to add extras.

Prizes would be given for best design and most teamwork.

Stanley says she was delighted when 39 departments from the hospital campuses in Smithfield and Clayton requested the kits, and 24 ultimately decided to enter their houses into the contest.

At the close of the contest, judges were so impressed that they asked if they could add an award and an honorable mention. “It was the toughest competition I’ve ever judged,” said Judy Boyette, president of the Johnston County Arts Council. “Everyone did such an amazing job.”

Stanley says employees used break times, and came in off-hours to work on the houses. In the Smithfield surgical services department, all 40 employees added something to the entry, which started out as a church, and then morphed into a city block. Even the surgeons offered ideas.

“We wanted to show how our hospital is part of the community,” said Angie Parker, a certified nursing assistant. “And the footprint just kept growing and growing.” Details included a helicopter landing pad on top of the hospital building, and interior rooms for surgery and recovery. Also on the roof, Santa and his reindeer. The entry won best teamwork.

Stanley says the contest brought joy to employees, and smiles to patients and visitors who saw the displays outside the hospital cafes. “It was a nice holiday greeting,” she added. “I think the departments took pride in their entries–just as they take pride in how they take care of the people in our communities. Whether it’s giving meds, cleaning rooms or assisting during surgery, they give 100 percent.”