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JamesW
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06 Dec 2023, 1:56 pm

Today I had cause to visit my local A&E in London. I'll spare the medical details, other than to happily say that I'm not nearly as ill as I thought I was.

It's been a very long time (over 20 years) since I've been in a hospital waiting room, and it was very stressful. Bright lights, crowds, noise, constant activity. The most exhausting thing, though, is having to be on constant alert for one's name being called out. In my local hospital the A&E is a long, narrow waiting room. Doctors are calling out names from four different doorways, two at each end of the room, without the benefit of mic or speakers. I had to stay alert to hear my name being called, and therefore headphones weren't an option. Additionally, as an autistic person, I have difficulty filtering out background noise to hear a conversation (if you talk to me with the TV on, I actually can't hear you), and if I do manage to pick out what it is I need to hear, I find it difficult to ascertain which direction it has come from. So I faced having to endure the noise, lights, and crowds for an undefined period of time, with no idea if I would actually be able to hear my name when it was called, or be able to work out who had called it.

I managed to avoid getting overwhelmed because the clinician took note that I was autistic, and was happy to answer two questions for me. First, she let me know which end of the room the doctor would call me from. Second, she was able to tell me approximately how long I would have to wait - and it was a long time, which ironically enough made me far less anxious, as it indicated to me that my medical problem was not urgent; I'm more than aware that not everyone is so lucky.

This A&E has a children's waiting room, which is much more autism-friendly - low lighting, soft seating, plenty of space - but of course the children are accompanied, and their adult carers are the ones listening out for the call. For a single autistic adult, there is no such provision.

I handle airport lounges perfectly well, even though they're brighter, noisier and more crowded than a hospital waiting room - because there is a departure board. This means I can put headphones on and zone out, knowing that whilever I am in sight of a board, I'm not going to miss my plane.

If hospitals did something similar, i.e. a name board in a location where everyone could see it, we could use our headphones and have a far less stressful experience. I have no idea if any hospitals do this, or used to. I'd be interested to hear people's experiences in other parts of the UK, or elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile I'm going to see what I can do at a local level to try and make this happen here.


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bee33
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06 Dec 2023, 2:55 pm

I've been to restaurants where they will send an alert on your phone when your table is ready. That way you don't even have to stay inside the restaurant while you wait. I'd think that would be easy enough for a hospital to do.

But hospitals here in the US are the same as you describe.



ToughDiamond
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06 Dec 2023, 8:41 pm

It might be worth asking them if they'll text you. I'm sure I've heard that some hospitals do that.

I also hate having to sit around for ages waiting to be called at random. I can't stand waiting if I've nothing to occupy my mind, but if I occupy my mind, I fear I'll miss the call and get sent to the back of the line. OTOH, I've heard that the mind is surprisingly good at hearing its name. Don't know if that applies to ASD though.



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07 Dec 2023, 11:59 pm

Back in the summer time, a friend of mine had an anxiety attack so I had to go to the hospital with her on the bus. The waiting room was really busy with all kinds of things going on. There were lots of crazy people. A 5 year old East Indian boy bumped his head at school really bad. There was an 8 year old girl with a cast on her arm. There was a wife with an injured jaw that she couldn't close. I can only imagine what her husband did to her. There was a homeless young man who's aunt was just as crazy. She kept on asking the young man, "Why don't you go into the mental health room and talk to your grandma instead of sitting out in this room with Sgt Schultz?


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bee33
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08 Dec 2023, 5:55 pm

It's done this way also in doctor's offices, where you sit in the waiting room and then a nurse comes out and calls your name. I've always thought that was a bad system, even in a doctor's office, which is less busy and chaotic than a hospital waiting room. Not only because of what you describe -- having to be constantly on the alert for your name, so that you cannot relax or block out overwhelming sensory input -- but also for other reasons.

What if someone is hard of hearing? What if they have some other disability that makes it hard for them to pay attention? Or they are so unwell, given that they are at the hospital, that they are not able to pay attention? What if the person calling your name mispronounces it and you don't realize they mean you (this has happened to me twice)? What if they call your name but they actually meant another patient with the same name (this has happened when I was at a doctor's office with my mother; luckily I mentioned that that day happened to be my mother's birthday so they realized they were looking at the wrong patient's chart, after they had already weighed her and entered her weight into the wrong patient's chart)?

It just seems so primitive and so prone to errors. There has to be a better way.



DirkGently69
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08 Dec 2023, 7:01 pm

I have the same issue with not being able to filter out background noise. Any more than one conversation going on and it just sounds like a babble of noise, and I catch parts of the conversation I’m supposed to be listening to, and also the other conversations, so in the end none of it makes sense.

I think Australian hospitals are pretty much the same as British ones. It all seems pretty chaotic. The one thing that I do like is that if you are in for something to do with mental health, they put you in a smaller, quiet waiting room. In regards to the electronic notice board, I actually saw one in a private hospital when I went to visit someone. It worked on a number for the patient, the doctor attending and the direction to go. Interestingly enough they also had one that had all the operations going on, and a constantly updated timeline, which I found interesting.



CockneyRebel
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09 Dec 2023, 12:06 am

At least I added to the entertainment value of the waiting rooms. I must have entertained a lot of people that night. :lol:


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NibiruMul
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09 Dec 2023, 1:02 pm

Waiting rooms in general are a nightmare for me to sit through. Sometimes you're the only one sitting in the room but you don't get called in for over half an hour. Other times it's packed with people, especially moms with babies and little kids. Sometimes the waiting room takes longer than the actual appointment. I remember 10 years ago when I had to get botox injections for my legs to help with my walking, me and Mom were in the waiting room for over an hour and a half, to the point where I was almost about to lose my temper. We arrived there roughly around 4 PM, but we didn't get home until after 8 PM.



ToughDiamond
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09 Dec 2023, 3:47 pm

bee33 wrote:
It's done this way also in doctor's offices, where you sit in the waiting room and then a nurse comes out and calls your name. I've always thought that was a bad system, even in a doctor's office, which is less busy and chaotic than a hospital waiting room. Not only because of what you describe -- having to be constantly on the alert for your name, so that you cannot relax or block out overwhelming sensory input -- but also for other reasons.

What if someone is hard of hearing? What if they have some other disability that makes it hard for them to pay attention? Or they are so unwell, given that they are at the hospital, that they are not able to pay attention? What if the person calling your name mispronounces it and you don't realize they mean you (this has happened to me twice)? What if they call your name but they actually meant another patient with the same name (this has happened when I was at a doctor's office with my mother; luckily I mentioned that that day happened to be my mother's birthday so they realized they were looking at the wrong patient's chart, after they had already weighed her and entered her weight into the wrong patient's chart)?

It just seems so primitive and so prone to errors. There has to be a better way.

There is, but few places use it. When I was a child, my doctor's surgery had a wall board containing a set of tokens labelled 1 to 50. Each patient would take the lowest available number, wait to be seen, and then hang it back up again on the way to see the doctor. The board was clearly labelled with the token numbers so it was clear where to hang the token. It worked quite well. It gave you an idea how long you had left to wait, so you could fairly safely step outside for a little while to rehumanise. They occasionally lost a token, but it didn't matter much and it was soon replaced. And I suspect that if you weren't there when they called you, they wouldn't just cancel your appointment or send you to the back of the queue, they'd put a bit of effort into finding you.

Argos the "catalogue shop" also gives out numbers, and has a big screen where you can clearly see the progress of your item while you wait for them to get it out of storage.

It's the randomness of waiting that's hard, not knowing if you'll be waiting 5 seconds or 5 hours.

I couldn't believe how high-handedly they treated patients in the USA. It's no better than the UK's NHS when it comes to the waiting game, in fact it's worse because they give you a stack of forms to fill in. In the UK if you pay for private healthcare, they treat you like a VIP. AFAIK they don't make you fill in forms either, though that may have changed since I last went. I only go when I absolutely have to because even the UK experience can be horrible. There's usually a child squealing when I go.

Talking of waiting, they do this thing now where they send you into the room, you wait, a low-paid employee comes in and collects a load of data, then you wait AGAIN for the actual doctor. And that's after waiting in the waiting room already. No wonder we're called "patients." Last time I looked (quite a few years ago), in the UK you'd at least be with the doctor as soon as you went into their room.

And they never used to do this weighing lark unless you particularly needed it. In the USA they weigh everybody. I don't need weighing. It's obvious I'm neither fat nor thin, and my weight has never yet been relevent to my healthcare needs.



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10 Dec 2023, 6:51 am

There should be a TV show called Hospital Waiting Room where cameras are hidden in hospital waiting rooms around the world. I bet it would be a real hit.


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