Friday, December 19, 2008

My Eye on the BI #3

It's odd to say this but in a way I am grateful for "Eye on the BI" for impelling me to say some things which for long I have been recognizing the need to myself, and have been feeling guilty that I haven't acted on that feeling.

This post encompasses a variety of subjects, Health Care Design, Institutional Compassion, a continuing statement of my personal gratitude to the Board who runs the BI, and finally a huge tip of the hat to all the support people, case workers, nurses, practice assistants, technicians, orderlies, the women in the labs- everyone at Health Care Associates- and also the people in the lobby, the parking people, greeters, the woman who plays the harp sometimes (this is the most gracefully healing thing I have ever seen in a health care environment) and finally I would like to include the staff at Super Salad.

I know from my own business experience that when you are dealing with the public you only hear about problems, almost never hear what is going right, I also know that, speaking as a consumer, this is wrong. On the personal hand this is wrong because expressing gratitude brings on us the blessing of re-enjoyment of the things we are grateful for, and on the more public hand, it offers direction and information to those who are trying to do the right thing. This is why I have felt guilty about my own reticence.

It was not through neglect that I left my doctors out of the list above. They are remarkable people, and will get their own praise in another entry, but they are supported by the non medical staff, and that staff is so often passed over that I want to make this expression of gratitude specific to everyone from my caseworker to the architect and designer who make my trips to the doctor so comforting.

After my comments on the building you will find that the narrative of this post also, even mainly concerns a group whose service I never need, but who I watch at their work constantly- the translators and the interpreters for the hearing impaired.

This past year has been very intense for 

me. I have been receiving Interferon treatments every week at the liver center. I can not deal with needles and would not have done this if the nurse there had not agreed to give me the shots in the office! I have had an average of  2 appointments per week plus tests, labs drawn, more tests, specialists etc, and here is a question: with these things which require an extremely high level of compliance, what might the compliance level of a patient be if in addition to the burdens of the treatment itself the patient had to deal with an unpleasant and unfriendly environment? (Did I include the staff in Radiology? wonderful people!)

I often say that I owe my life to my doctors, but my compliance level is very much a factor of the efforts of all these people.

The Shapiro Clinical Center is the single most successfully designed outpatient clinic I have ever experienced. I am speaking now as a designer. I have never worked directly in health care, but it was an import part of the curriculum in the deign classes I taught at Wentworth Institute, Of the qualification exam of NCIDQ and a great concern for the Board of the New England Chapter of ASID on which I sat. I recite this so you may know that these are not idyl comments. Beth Israel took the old Mass College of art building, preserving the facade and built a new, lofty and light filled structure within it. It is warm, inviting, feels more like a hotel than a hospital and is beautifully finished. The space flows smoothly, the waiting rooms are filled with light and air, and everything is close, convenient and efficient. I have had everything from surgery to xrays right in this very pleasant building, and it connects to the main hospital by bridge- oddly that bridge is where a very important turning point in my life occurred- another story for another time! As a professional designer and educator I had to be able to tell young professionals and students what the point of design actually is. The point of good design is to improve the well being and ability to function of those who use the space. It is a great ideal but seldom met. I would like to applaud Beth Israel for so successfully meeting that standard.

Here is my photograph of the en

trance of the building: 

I was there the other day, waiting to have labs drawn. I have a wonderful relationship with the woman in the central suite of Health Care Associates. For many years now I have been giving them more blood than I thought was possible, and this woman has been doing it the whole time- at times twice a month. I will wait for 40 minutes for her rather than go to the other lab because we have really wonderful conversations about our families and our spiritual concerns. She somehow manages to get the needle in and draw as many as 17 tubes while this is going on without my even noticing! She is a great blessing to this world, and the fact that she can do it while distracting this frantic needlephobe is an amazing gift to me!

I was waiting for her the other day, in the waiting room at Health Care Associates and watched this scene unfold. It was on the other side of the room and I could not hear the content of what was said, but had a very clear view of their faces and expressions, and I could tell that the tall blond woman was speaking Russian only. This is being played out in the bath of diffused light from the huge windows which shines through layers of frosted glass. Perhaps through sympathy, even empathy, I have become very sensitized to the emotional state of other patients, and the look of worry and strain on the Russian woman's face spoke of some very unpleasant situation unfolding. Whether it was her own case, or a loved one I can not know, but what was clear that there was some problem, I don't know what and for my purpose here it isn't important. What is important is the way she was being treated by the case worker, translator and practice assistant, who were dealing with the problem. From a distance I assumed that the two people with her were family or friends. The practice assistant I recognized, but the other two? The PA made many trips to the back area, there was much back and forth and finally the resolution was reached. The expression of shear relief and gratitude that spread over that woman's face will be with me forever, I was near tears just watching as she received the news, whatever it was. Then the other two shook her hand and started to walk to the office and I realized that they were a translator and caseworker. My initial mistake should illustrate the way the woman was being cared for. I left after seeing my friend in the central lab, and was thinking of all the work that my own caseworker has put into my comfort and health, of the reception staff and practice assistants who greet me so cordially and know who I am and what I need even before I tell them, who remember my nephew from 4 years ago when he was bringing me back and forth and ask for him still, and who report to me about their kids, "School- It was only yesterday you were pregnant!"

In my darkest hours I have always been eager to go to the Shapiro center, always feel at home there- and that is an essential part of health care. I was thinking all this as I left. The harp woman was playing in the lobby and as I passed to the doors I noticed a small group with one the hospitals signers interpreting for a hearing impaired person. 

Put your eye on the BI and all this is what you'll see!

No comments: