Six Questions


School Visits



Five for the hospitals

Over the past 14 months or so, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in hospitals (not as a patient, thank goodness). During those long days of prowling the halls and rooms of these mammoth buildings, I’ve arrived at some improvements which would vastly improve the experience of those of us doomed to spend time there.

I realize that you are almost certainly not a hospital person, but maybe you know someone who is… or are willing to help me bang the drum a bit, and get some of these ideas into the collective awareness of our medical community.

Idea 1: Fix the Roof!

The hospitals I’ve visited recently are huge sprawling building complexes. From the outside, they look impressive, with sweeping driveways and larger-than-life sculptures. The opulence continues in the lobbies, with artwork-laden walls and self-playing pianos. Go to a patient room, however, and look out the window. What do you see? Acres of dingy gray roofs, with metal vents and air conditioning units, often billowing out discolored steam. It’s a bleak and desolate view, completely at odds with what you want your patients looking at. Put a garden up there, or a lawn, or solar panels, or even just paint an interesting picture. Your patients don’t care what the lobby looks like. Give them a view that they can appreciate.

Idea 2: Let In the Light!

Prior to a medical procedure, patients are taken to a preparation room. This is easily the most frightening part of the whole process. Imagine that you are facing surgery. Whether it’s emergency or not, you’ve had time to think about it. You know it’s dangerous. Now is the time for it to happen.  You are wheeled down through a series of hallways into a dimly lit cavern with patient areas defined by curtains. Usually, you can hear people crying or moaning as you are placed into your little area. Nurses, anesthesiologists, and doctors swoop down on you to ask who you are and why you’re there. They mark on your body where the surgery is going to take place, and tell your loved one where they can meet you after the surgery.

Terrifying, right? I understand that most of it can’t be helped, but why does it have to happen in the dim glow of fluorescent lights? Pipe in some sunlight! If you can’t position this most frightening of places near a window, then use some fiber optics to pipe in the sun.

Idea 3: Let the Music Play!

The patient rooms always have televisions, sometimes more than one. Televisions are fine, but they don’t hold a candle to good old-fashioned music. Sleeping, or even just relaxing, in a hospital room can be a challenge, especially with all the beeping machines, squeaky cart wheels, and moaning patients. Put some speakers in the patient rooms, and connect them to a radio with a plug so people can plug in their own devices. Let them fall asleep to their own music. Let them try to forget for just a little bit the situation that they’re in.

Idea 4: Teach your People Social Skills

Imagine for a moment that you’re lying in a hospital bed. A complete stranger walks in, checks your I.D. bracelet, and starts messing with your I.V. What do you do? Now, imagine that the same person introduces him or herself, greets you, and then explains what they’re doing and why. It’s a whole different experience.

Let’s try another one. A technician comes into your room and tells you it’s time for your MRI. This is the first time you’ve heard of any MRI. When you question why you’re getting the MRI, the response is “the doctor ordered it.”  What do you do? Now imagine that the doctor tells you ahead of time why the MRI is indicated and when it will happen. Would your response be any different?

Social skills can be difficult to master, but you can start by giving your staff (doctors included) three simple rules:
1) Always introduce yourself.
2) Always ask permission. The person in the bed is helpless. Before you start messing with him or her, ask if it’s okay.
3) For doctors: always tell the patient what you’re prescribing and why. Do not simply write an order.

Idea 5: Get some good food!

The hospitals I’ve been in have large populations, many of whom have a great deal of money. The only food options, though, have been cafeterias that were a significant step-down from even the most basic of fast food places. Why? I understand the appeal of the cafeteria. It’s fast and inexpensive, and completely appropriate for busy staff. Why not attach a more upscale eatery, as well? It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even something in the same category as a Chili’s or Bennigan’s would be fine. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t make tons of moneyl. Not only would the staff use it, but it would be wonderful to give patients and their families a place where they can celebrate good news.

That’s it. I’m sure you have lots more that you could think of, but these are the five that came to me.

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Posted January 15, 2014 in Life