It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Room of Everyone's Own

When thinking hospital, a lot of things come to mind, and not one of them is "privacy."  

We are always citing patients' privacy rights -- the subject resurfaced as a welcome reminder in a recent department meeting -- along with the acknowledgement that while everyone acknowledges the value of medical secrecy, standing up to its principles are no easy feat in a small, everyone's-my-cousin environment such as exists in our humble corner of the Middle East.

Then there's the flip side:  Where do hospital workers go to preserve privacy -- their own, their colleagues', their patients', their patients' families'?  

This morning after a meeting, I returned to my department via the stairs.  Between two of the upper floors, a tech staff member was lying against the stairwell wall, coffee in hand, three sections of the newspaper sprawled across several steps and over a chair on the landing. One flight later, a young man -- a volunteer, perhaps, or a pediatric patients' older brother -- had his waterproof tallit / tefillin bag resting, open, just under the handrail along my right side, while he was making his way through shaharit (morning prayers) there on my left.

Yesterday I walked into our department classroom a few minutes into our mid-day break, only to find one of our teachers working with a small patient while colleagues sat drinking coffee across the table.  
Aren't you going to take your break now?  I asked the her.  

She nodded at her pupil with a knowing smile.   I'm taking a sort of learning break, she replied, here with H.
I'll be the first to admit it:  I'm not the best example.  I don't always stop to take a methodical, sit-down-and-close-the-door-behind-you coffee break, and anyway, there aren't too many spaces in the department that provide the right conditions for such an effort.  As I've lamented before, I don't have an office.  For this reason I can (and have) spend up to ten minutes looking for a semi-private corner of the department to sit down with a staff member, for a conversation of the same length.

So where should we go to hold a private conversation?  The archives?  A stuffy, windowless security room with little ventilation to counter the stifling odor of multiple files.  The chairs in the waiting area across the hall?  Patients and staff walk through there freely, always within hearing distance.   I would even try the stairwell, but what an echo.  No privacy there.  

Only one other room option comes to mind.  It has a lockable door, but alas, it only seats one... 

Keep the balance,


No comments: