I have been spending a lot of time at a hospital lately. Too damn much time, one might say. And because I am not the patient, I’ve had time to observe all the things one can hate about hospitals besides having to go as a patient. Here is my list:
1. The lights. What is with those fluorescent bulbs that make everyone, including small children, look absolutely exhausted? Sick or not, under the dim but harsh lights everyone in a hospital everyone looks like they need to be in a hospital. Very depressing.
2. Nowadays I think doctors are really trying to work on their bedside manner and be more thoughtful and caring when dealing with patients. Nurses, by and large, are okay, too. But the check-you-in, tell-you-where-to-go staff, at least in some New York hospitals, seem to spend more time talking to each other than trying to be helpful. And when you dare to complain about their not being helpful, full-scale retaliation can kick in. Enough to make you sick.
3. With all the blabber about electronic medical-record keeping, it seems no one has ever heard of reading a printout. Even though you hand over your medical insurance cards and fill out a form when you first go for treatment, and it is all entered into a computer, you need to do it again and again and again. Wonder how Steve Jobs reacted to this inability to effectively use technology. Now they explain this by saying they have to keep checking to make sure they are treating the right patient with the right protocol. But didn’t I read that over a hundred thousand people die in hospitals each year because of medical error? Wouldn’t it make sense that the fourth person asking you the same questions would at least read what you said before?
4. And then, of course, there is the waiting. You have an appointment at twelve o’clock, which means you really have an appointment at one o’clock or perhaps even later because they wanted you there early to fill out the information you have already given and assume it will take you more than half an hour. Or the doctor is running late. Or the staff is chit-chatting away and so the lab work is sent up later than it should be and everything slows down.
5. And, of course, the worst of all is you are in a hospital because you are sick or you are with someone who is sick and that is frightening and bewildering and makes you dependent on a whole batch of strangers. And so, under those fluorescent lights, you already feel you are in the shadows.
— Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge, where this first appeared.