7 Features of A Compassionate Hospital Waiting Room

Post Written By Guest Blogger, Susan E. Mazer

Compassion is evidenced in many ways, many of which are not verbal. Being compassionate is about a universal kindness that is real and genuine that shows itself in every aspect of the healthcare organization.

Often that first point of compassionate contact is the hospital waiting room. Yet any of the many patient and public micro-environments in a hospital speaks to the mission of the healthcare organization.

And, if that mission promises compassionate care, the physical environment of the healthcare organization must also be compassionate.

Here are seven characteristics of compassionate hospital waiting rooms:

1. Clean

No stained or broken chairs. No dirty tables. No remains from previous visitors. Furniture that is worn should be replaced. Assume it is the “living room” of the hospital.

2. Welcoming

The opposite of sterile. Artwork that is comforting. Lighting that is warm. And, staff that are in good moods and go our of their way to make sure patients and families are as comfortable as they can be. Keep in mind that elderly patients may not feel at ease in a room that has either glaring overhead lights or table lamps that are not bright enough.

3. Calming

Remember, no one is there for a holiday. They are worried. Have positive distractions, such as water elements, an aquarium, and music.

4. Supportive

Nature has been shown to be the most therapeutic image and element to reduce stress. Plants should be healthy or silk plants should be clean. Either will do the job if they are taken care of. Dead or dying plants do not speak well for the competence of the staff or the reliability of care. The seating arrangement is also key to not only comfort, but for support. Families need their own place to gather and talk and those who are without family may also need their own privacy.  Varied seating arrangements, ensuring a line of sight to information and easy access to restrooms improves the experience. Remember that a new mother just getting used to holding a baby may not necessarily be comfortable in chairs without arms or in bench seats. An elderly woman may have trouble getting up from deep, cushioned chairs.

5. Safe

Make sure that there is ample room to walk and move around without tripping. And, that there is good lighting. Again, the waiting area should be monitored so that it is always neat and clean.

6. Caring

Ask yourself what makes the patient feel cared about? Perhaps it’s hot tea or coffee. Or iced tea in the summer. A volunteer host with a welcoming smile.

7. Sensitive to Stress

The television in the waiting area can be stressful. It is often turned to a channel no one chose, contributing either to calm or the stress. Putting your televisions on Fox News, for example, will not reduce stress. Images of shootings, floods, mass pileups on the highway, war and terror are not caring. In fact, they are an insult to your patients who need to be protected from all of this. The C.A.R.E. Channel offers a continuous view of nature, beautiful original music, and has been shown to support patients and families.

The Final Word

Spend time in your waiting rooms — anonymously. Imagine yourself as a worried patient or family member. Sit there and watch and listen. You will know what the experience is like.