Emergency rooms make me cranky.

Lack of sleep makes me even more cranky.

So… after 5 hours in the emergency room in the middle of the night with Julie, who broke the growth plate in her wrist (the part of the bone that’s busy growing in adolescents) in yet another soccer-related injury, I’m not exactly a barrel of laughs today.

Here’s the thing… why oh WHY has nobody figured out how to make an emergency room (and especially the waiting room) a reasonably pleasant (or at least comfortable and somewhat soothing) space to wait in? There are a lot of creative people in this world – why haven’t we invested some of that creative energy into better designs for emergency rooms and hospitals in general?

Basically everyone sitting in an emergency room is under some kind of stress. Nobody WANTS to sit in a crowded uncomfortable room for five hours, waiting to spend five minutes with an over-worked doctor who’s just trying to survive until the end of the shift. Nobody wants to sit in those uncomfortable, straight-backed vinyl-covered chairs, staring at non-descript white walls plastered with ugly stop-smoking posters five years past their prime, craning their necks to see the tiny TV dangling somewhere close to the ceiling in the farthest corner of the room.

And while I’m venting – what’s up with the system that treats a patient like one of the cattle, shuffled through a corral shute from one nursing station to the next, answering the very same list of questions to three different people? Is there no more efficient, people-centred system than that? Last year, I sat with my mother-in-law and father-in-law in the emergency room, after my father-in-law had made a few dozen visits to the same ER in less than a month’s time, and I wanted to scream when I saw the look of pure exhaustion on my mother-in-law’s face when she had to answer the same questions she’d answered the other countless times she’d been there. You have a frickin’  computer sitting right in front of you, people! WHY didn’t anyone record the answers the last hundred times they were asked? It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take a Phd in human psychology to know that too many questions when you’re under stress can tip you over the edge.

Here’s my theory on the whole thing. We have let the industrial revolution shape too many of our spaces and our systems and we’re still a little lost trying to figure out how to dig ourselves out from underneath the frameworks that have turned us into consumers and producers and forms and problems-to-be-solved rather than people.

We have designed hospitals like factories, thinking more about production, efficiency, and TQM (don’t even get me started on that) than about people and families and humanity. We have developed health care systems that are less about health than they are about medicine; less about people than they are about systems; less about healing than they are about bandaids. We make decisions based on what costs less, what will pacify the most number of voters, what appears the most efficient to our funders, and what will push the highest number of people through the conveyor belt that is our public services. (I could go on a similar rant about the education system, but I’ll spare you that one.)

I think it’s time to rise up, people. I think it’s time to stop the conveyor belt. I think it’s time to stop and look around at the victims of these flawed systems and figure out what’s best for THEM rather than what’s best for the clunky machinery of our systems. I think it’s time for compassion, intuitive thinking, people-centred decision-making, and LOVE.

I think it’s time to apply a bit more of our Sophia wisdom to all of this! Do I hear an amen?

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