Hospitals – Now I’m Cringing.

  • So today I’ve had the dubious honour of transporting a member of my family to the hospital for an appointment.  He couldn’t drive himself through a shoulder injury that’s rendered his arm less than useless.  Something to do with a mixture of a motorcycle, speed, corner and the very hard surface of the tarmac, and yes he’s already been called every name under the sun from “Stupid” and “Idiot”, to the more questionable vulgarities not fit for printing here.

    Now, the best thing about the NHS is that it’s free(ish) at the point of use.  Very few countries across the world can boast a health system with this claim.  Let’s face it, the NHS is an organisation that has an infinite amount of work to do with finite resources, so why am I cringing at having to visit the hospital.  Am I one of those that detests hospitals?  Not particularly.  Of course I can think of better things to do than hang around hospital waiting rooms.  I don’t particularly like visiting the hospital, but then who does?  But I haven’t had a particularly bad experience in hospital that colours my present day perception or feeds a morbid fear of these places, so why do I cringe?  Quite simply, it’s the language and behaviour of everyone in the place.

    Those of you that follow my blog will recall I posted on a visit to my GP Surgery a while ago.  How the reception staff would do well to wear a smile now and then and to give visitors the feeling that they aren’t an inconvenience disturbing their day.  Well this goes along the same lines, only you don’t only see the receptionists, you see many of the clinical staff as well.

    So who did I see?  Well the first one that really struck me as I was cringing my way from the multi-story car park (having negotiated the stairs that smell of wee, but that tends to be the case with any similar car park) was a guy wearing an NHS ID huffing and puffing his way in the opposite direction.  Probably some sort of administrative support but nonetheless not a great advert for the NHS in that he was morbidly obese!  Hence his breathless progress down the corridor.  He reminded me of the junior doctor in that documentary series of the same name.

    Having found our way to the appropriate place through a maze of passageways and checked in, we settled in to wait for my charge to be called.  Thankfully he had brought a good book to read.  In my usual way, however, I started to “people-watch”.  Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… 5 minutes past appointment time… 10 minutes… 15…

    You can’t help but overhear the odd conversation.  Like the two ladies deep in conversation about every medical ailment that has befallen them.  What drugs they are on, the side affects, in fact the whole nine yards!  Who needs medical confidentiality when you can sit in an NHS waiting room and just listen.  It’s not that I was lending them an ear in particular, but they were talking so loudly one couldn’t help but hear them.

    One of the clinical staff moving around the waiting area in a very officious manner, rather like a preying mantis about to jump on it’s dinner.  Various people waiting for their appointment (20… 25 minutes) eyeing her with something approaching nervousness.  One has to ask the question as to how people feel when she calls their name to be seen.  Worried?  Apprehensive?

    Another nurse(?) regularly calling names in a very authoritarian manner, rearranging where people are sat, presumably to ease access of the patients on her list, but literally ordering people to “Sit there”!

    Another call for a name that had the audacity not to show himself on the first call.  It took three calls before the nurse became aware that she had found him but quite simply he couldn’t move that fast as he was on crutches.  The awful sound of impatience creeping into her voice was something to behold though.

    So 25 minutes past his appointment time my friend is called in.  Come on, 25 minutes isn’t actually that bad!  Leaving me to continue people watching.  I find it heartening to regard the lady brought in using a wheelchair, another relative in tow.  How cheerful she was.  What a ray of sunshine in this otherwise boundless sea of negativity.  The man pushing the wheelchair was so attentive and sat with them both, engaging in conversation and I thought “now that is service”.  Then I realised the man was not a porter as I first thought, but a care agency worker not actually employed by the hospital.

    My friend comes back out from his appointment looking somewhat disgruntled.  Obviously feeling he had not been given the time for proper consideration and feeling rather “fobbed off” to a physiotherapist in a different hospital.  I think what added insult to injury (pardon the pun) was that he had to take the paperwork there himself!  Well I suppose at least you’ll know it got there.

    So not one smile.  Bags of authoritarian language.  Body language that would turn a warthogs stomach.  Why do I cringe at visiting hospitals?  Think I might have answered that.  If only the staff in such places would realise the effect their body language and language itself has on the people they are caring for.  If they did, they’d realise they can promote healing and positivity with just a word.  Now THAT would save the NHS some money!



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  • Helen McPherson

    March 22, 2011

    Oh it’s constant isn’t it. I AM one of those who destest hospitals, possibly phobic about them. Don’t think there was an ISE, I have barely been in a hospital cos I hate them so much. I avoid them like the plague and your post above is one of the reasons. Just appalling. And they have no idea of what they are doing either. Having siad that, who’d want to work in a place like that, it would drive me to tears!