Bill was in shock when he received a text message from Roger’s wife stating that Roger was in an auto accident and was rushed to Shawnee Mission Medical Center. The message also said he was now out of ER and in room 322 and that Bill should go to the main entrance of SMMC in order to get to the third floor. Bill knew the location of the hospital but had never been inside. For Bill, hospitals spelled sickness and death. As a consequence, he avoided them if at all possible. In this case, however, Roger was one of Bill’s closest friends and a long-standing fishing buddy. He would make an exception for his injured friend.
It was an easy drive to SMMC but finding the main entrance was another matter. Nor did it help Bill think clearly when he was feeling anxious and stressed by being at a hospital. He did spy some revolving doors that had the appearance of a formal main entrance. He was in for a rude awakening! Upon entering, he asked a lady in the front if this was the main entrance and then was informed that it was around on the east side of the hospital.
At this point, Bill could tell that his blood pressure and pulse were in high gear. He did successfully make it to the main entrance and quickly found a set of elevators. He entered the elevator and gave a sigh of relief and concentrated on calming himself down. He then reached out to press the button for the 3rd floor. At that moment, adrenalin shot through his veins! There was no 3rd floor! He stepped out of the elevator and was totally confused and lost.
The above scenario is not an exaggeration and we, as a staff, need to ensure that we are proactive in assisting everyone that enters our doors. It is our responsibility to be alert and cognizant of the fact that many people that come to us are under stress and are feeling fearful about the whole hospital environment. When a person becomes lost and confused trying to find their way, feelings of panic occur. On the upside, when a person receives assistance in finding their way, the anxiety quickly subsides. The assistance can be in the form of telling a person that you will personally escort them to where they need to go, or to assist them in using one of our hospital maps. It’s interesting to see how at one moment the person is highly stressed and then when you give assistance, that stress evaporates in front of your eyes! A major tranquilizer couldn’t work that fast.
Hospital volunteers have a major role in assisting patients and visitors to their needed locations. I don’t think this role can be over-stressed. It is communicating to the community that we are compassionate and care about them. There are also the cases where SMMC has professional visitors attending conferences and professional meetings on our campus. In these cases, I strongly believe that these people should all be personally escorted to their meeting places. This is the “red carpet welcome to SMMC.”
Not only are volunteers involved in assisting in helping people find their way, other staff are also needed to assist the lost. Frequently there are nonverbal cues that indicate a person is lost or confused. When a person exits an elevator and starts looking 360 degrees around and then looks up in the air, he will probably need help. By giving a helping hand we are showing that we are “Much More Than Medicine!”
John Haynes, MS, MBA, is a retired school psychologist and a current volunteer at Shawnee Mission Medical Center (SMMC). He served as a Hospital Corpsman at the US Naval Academy and served on the USS Sanctuary Hospital ship in Vietnam. In addition to his volunteer work at SMMC, he's actively involved in the community through the Shawnee Kiwanis Club and the Kansas Trails Council. His interests vary from backpacking and mountain biking to investment analysis and business management. He and his wife have two sons.