I Wish Hospitals Were More Hospitable 735.5

Hospitals are super-sanitary institutions housing millions of dollars of technology and scores of trained medical professionals for the purpose of providing medical care for the sick and injured.

I just spent some time with my daughter at one of the better hospitals in New York City. She received great treatment, but I wish hospitals were more hospitable.

A hospitable place is marked by a generous, welcoming, and cordial atmosphere creating a pleasant, comfortable, and comforting environment.

Sadly, hospitals are often notably inhospitable. Cold indifference and insensitive behavior are more common than considerate compassion and sympathy.

Too often folks seem so busy, bored, or preoccupied with specific tasks that the emotional needs of patients, relatives, and friends are treated as irrelevant or annoying distractions. All but the most assertive are intimidated into passive compliance.

The message is: “Stay out of the way; we treat illness and injuries, not people.”

I realize it must be difficult to continuously deal with the anguish and demands of people who think their problems are the most important things in the world, but there are lots of wonderful hospital administrators, nurses, and doctors who know that emotional pain caused by stress, worry, fear, and uncertainty are no less important than physical pain and other symptoms of disease or injury.

Without any loss of effectiveness, they demonstrate that they are as interested in making people feel better as in helping patients get better.

I wonder what it would take to make that the new norm?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


Some people claim the cool indifference is due to the idea that every patient is a potential plaintiff of an unfair or exploitative litigation. Thus, they and their families are often treated as adversaries. The irony is that people are far less likely to sue doctors or institutions they like. As a result, being decent, compassionate, and kind is not only the right thing to do, it is a smart risk-management strategy.

Comments 6

  1. A couple of comments. First, I don’t doubt that this description of the hospital environment exists in many hospitals but I’ll bet that they do not all demonstrate it to the same degree that you personally experienced. The envirnoment and culture in a large city hospital might be vastly different from that of a smaller suburban or small town hospital.
    Second, hospital administratotrs are aware of the importance of hospitality. In many hospitals this is stressed to employees in many different ways including forcing them to sign pledges that they will comply with the feel good campaign. Administrators are all for making visitors and patients feel good unless it makes the employees get behind in the schedule or it costs the hospital money.

  2. I don’t know what medical professionals you are dealing with, but all the ones I have come in contact with have not only been professional and attentive, but friendly, social and concerned about emotional and psychological health in addition to physical condition. Maybe you are just THAT PATIENT who expects to be entertained and treated like THE ONLY PATIENT in the hospital. Maybe if you adjusted your own attitude you will find that the medical professional who acts with indifference is not as common as you think. Maybe you will find that the “new norm” you seek is actually “THE norm.” Maybe you will find that THEY aren’t the problem so much as YOU are.

  3. The pressure on hospital professionals to care for the physical and emotional needs of patients is so enormous to challenge each individual’s skill to cope. The patients, their relations and friends should also be compassionate on the professionals as much as they rightly expect compassion from them. The contract between both parties should be guided by ‘Do unto others as you wish others do unto you’ and ‘Do not unto others what you don’t what others do unto you’. This mutual and reciprocate compassion will make our hospitals and other institutions more hospitable. After all, the health professionals are just flesh, blood and bones like their patients. Finally, we are all potential patients.

  4. I think he hit his mark with his description of his experiences. Often enough we worry about the botton line and not our customers. Lets clean up our acts.

  5. I’m wondering also if this is an “East Coast” thing? I don’t want to say I’m biased but a lot of folks I meet from the East Coast seem to act a lot different than those out west. When I have been back in NY – it seemed like folks are a lot more blunt in actions & words almost to the point of being confrontational. Is it just me? Would those who work in a similar environment on the “left coast” be more likely to be a tad more “people oriented”?

  6. I live in the Midwest, known for our uncanny hospitality. Just last week I spent time with my elderly mother in the Emergency Department. I work in healthcare so my “antenna” was up. I observed a host of great things, mainly with efficiency and communication (introduction, what I am doing and why). Hospitality, not so much. I had to ask for a warm blanket as she sat shivering in her bed. I had to ask for a bedpan as the pain medication started to cause nausea. Her last meal was at home at noon that day and they NEVER offered her a night meal or snack, nor did they inform her on how to order breakfast the next morning. She didn’t eat until after 8 am the next day. The moon shone in her face part of the night and nobody noticed (as they took her BP multiple times) or informed her how to put the shade up. Her sleep was disrupted by laughing and loud talking staff at the nursing station all night long. She left the next day, AMA stating she could take care of herself better at home.
    So, I agree with your perception of hospitality in the hospital. We (healthcare industry) have to do much, much better.
    PS – we requested a “How was your experience” form….

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