Folks, I’ll never forget that night. Led gently by my worried husband, who was a bit concerned about my ability to keep breathing, I walked into the lobby of a mid-sized, plain-vanilla 100-odd bed community hospital in my neighborhood.
I already knew, from phone calls to my PCP, that I probably had pneumonia. And I knew that while I probably didn’t need an admission, I definitely needed a hand. My temp was 104, my cough was in the Black Plague range and I could barely walk.
So, then medical reality collided with nice, warm, compassionate medical theory. The details aren’t important — basically, since the ED staff had nowhere appropriate to put me while I waited, and demanded I wear a mask I simply could not tolerate — I ended up sitting on the floor inside the glass box between the outside and inside doors to the facility. At least the cold from the winter night kept my temp down a bit.
I’m sorry, but I absolutely cannot fathom why even a not-so-rich community hospital can’t do more to make very, very uncomfortable and scared people feel safe when they enter an ED door.
Why are hospitals spending SO much energy advertising their abbreviated ED wait times? Customer service, right? Well, guys, I can assure you that it makes more sense to start with EDs that aren’t a nightmare to visit. Get people through quickly? Sure. But for the time they’re in the lobby, much less in case, make that time welcoming and safe.
Yes, I realize not every hospital will spend enough to put Pottery Barn-style couches and deluxe coffee and tea service out there, but what bothers me is that comfort doesn’t seem to be anyone’s aspiration when patients arrive.
The nursing staff in the emergency departments I’ve visited are largely abrupt and impatient, refusing to make the slightest human connection with patients. The lobbies themselves stack uncomfortable institutional chairs and horrible lighting on top of one another in a graceless manner which rivals sitting in the New York City subway at 2AM. And if you want food or drink you often have to go on a hunting expedition you’re in no position to conduct.
My take? This is not acceptable. No. Not for a second. I don’t want to hear any excuses about it.
If your hospital can’t afford high-toned decor, maybe get a volunteer to serve as a concierge to help make people comfortable. Rent a goddamned cot or two for patients who aren’t dying but feel like they want to. Provide some hot liquids, for Christ’s sake — it’s not going tap out the budget for a mid-sized community hospital. Remind your front-desk nurses that people are in pain, and base part of their pay on the reports you get from patients.
You know, evidence is piling up that patient satisfaction correlates pretty strongly with profit. If compassion and common sense aren’t enough to convince the hold outs that it’s time for them to make their front door inviting, I guess nothing will.
- Hospital cuts wait times in half (theglobeandmail.com)
- El Camino Hospital Emergency Departments Keep Waiting Times Low (eon.businesswire.com)