I listened early Sunday morning a few days after having outpatient surgery. Surgery went well, staff was attentive, and follow-through was excellent, but hospital experience was dreary. Afterward, I wrote down the factors I felt were contributing to that feeling. It was eery: As I listened to Sternberg describe the "typical community hospital", her words described the building I'd been in exactly. There is no excuse for it. The building is located in a beautiful spot with outstanding views of mountains-- but most windows face away from them. There were no windows for patients in the pre-op unit. The building is a blob located with a large area of land surrounding it. The parking lot is huge rather than broken up and walkable. A much-vaunted "healing garden" is located only feet away from a heavily traveled city road. The surgical pre-op has no windows that can be seen out of; it plays what I call "bar music" (the kind that makes people a bit edgy so they drink more) instead of calm, soothing music. Patients must be taken down a long hallway, then left in a windowless holding area prior to surgery. The hospital has a corporate "sponsor" (instrumental in founding the hospital long ago) who has provided the facility with many high-tech diagnostic and treatment devices. And it is exactly as Dr. Sternberg pointed out: the building is built around the machinery, and gives little attention to human needs. Entering it is like going into a long bland cave designed to resemble a board room. I was so happy my surgery was outpatient; I could not have stood to stay there longer. After surgery, it felt so good to come out into the light, go home, and look out my windows at the trees and the clouds, feel the light. I wish I could show you the difference in how the spaces feel. My house is old and a bit run-down, but it is a friendly, welcoming space. Why can't that hospital (undergoing still more expensive technological renovation) give that healing experience to the people who could not go home the way I did?
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