Wednesday, March 19, 2014


When my father was dying, I went to visit him in the hospital.  The night I got there, he wasn't in his room. When a patient is very ill, an empty bed at night is a frightening signal to a family member.  I couldn't find anyone who knew where he had gone.  For one of the rare times in my life, I sat down on the stairs and cried.

Today I'm going to an appointment with my primary doctor.  Afterward I want to go immediately to the hospital for a patient education lunch and lecture.  I've been looking forward to it; I don't want to miss any more of it than I have to.  There's a time factor here.

But I don't know how to get to the room in the main hospital.  I've always been in another building for the surgery center and the breast center.  I emailed the coordinating nurse; she emailed back to go to the main entrance and people there would guide me.

But where is the main entrance to the main hospital?  

My daughter has lived here for ages, but never needed the main entrance.  We drove over there last night.   There was one  pretty entrance with a luxury-hotel fanlight over the door.  A sign saying Maternity pointed toward it, but when we pulled up, a man in a wheelchair was being helped out.  Is that the main entrance?  It just says Pinecroft Lobby.  

My daughter said, tomorrow, the little shuttle will pick you up.  (I've seen the shuttle, and speed is not their thing.)  We went home.   

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

When we work somewhere, we know where the main entrance is. Or what we call the main entrance. On a store, it's evident.   What we call the back door may be on the side, but we still call it the back door when we talk to new customers or clients.  

In the past, there was no mistaking the main entrance to a hospital. Architecture made it obvious.  Now, we depend on signs for departments we don't need, signs that keep us from watching our driving among frantic, frightened people.  The sign I need would say Main Entrance.

We as patients have become inured to wandering around in hospitals hoping to find someone who can tell us where to find the waiting room for the colonoscopy or where to find Dad's room.  The red line on the floor leads to what is now an empty department. Yet hospitals are paying a fortune for signage.  Or is our insurance paying for it?  

Yes, today is just a lunch and a lecture.  No big deal.  But for the patient in the car behind me, how to get in may be a very big deal.

Am I wrong to think that telling the patient very clearly how to get where he needs to be is a sign of caring?    

On the other hand, how does the hospital know we're not happy if we don't say so?  This is what my patient voice is for.  

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