Last week, I attended a workshop given by Rosie Walker who is a UK-based diabetes and education specialist. You can read more about Rosie and her independent company Successful Diabetes here. The focus of the session was diabetes consultations and I was eager to go along as the ‘consultee’ as opposed to the consultant (most of the other participants).

One of the topics was how consulting rooms can be more ‘patient-friendly’. After this discussion, I asked if we could, for a moment, steer the conversation to waiting rooms.

I see my endo in private rooms and there is nothing particularly offensive about the room I wait in until she calls me in. It’s quiet, there are plenty of chairs and some out of date magazines on the table. I’m always pleased that there are travel mags, so I can do a little armchair travel as I while away the time.

My GP’s waiting room is a little more bustling. It’s larger, the phone doesn’t stop ringing and, because it is a very busy practise, people come and go constantly. There are signs on the walls asking people to not use their mobile phones while waiting to see the doctor in an endeavour to keep some of the noise down. The magazines are about health and wellbeing or home renovation. And golf. Someone in the clinic is a golfer and recycles their mags in the waiting room. Again, pretty innocuous and not an unpleasant way to spend some (often considerable) time waiting for my name to be called.

But I have seen some slightly terrifying things in waiting rooms that have made me want to turn around and walk out. Once, in a presentation I was giving in the waiting room of a diabetes clinic, I did actually draw attention to the horrendous poster which depicted graphic images of amputated toes.

I am not sure who thinks that it is a good idea to put up scary photos of ‘what will happen if you defy me’ in waiting rooms. Is there any logic in showing photos of amputated limbs, eyes with diabetic retinopathy or terrifying slogans of ‘diabetes is deadly serious’? Does this make people skip into see their doctor eagerly, or fear they may be threatened? At its worst, it’s akin to bullying. At best, it’s thoughtless and unnecessary.

Often, people sitting in waiting rooms are already anxious and scared about what is waiting for them. Will there be results from tests that could be bad news? Will the HCP be cross because diabetes hasn’t really been a priority lately? I know that I am often apprehensive about what is waiting for me behind the doctor’s doors and I don’t do HCPs who do judgement.

Waiting rooms need to be a safe haven, free of judgement, nastiness and fear. They need to calm us down and make us feel that we can be open and honest once we get to see the doctor.

For me, my dream waiting room would look like this:

Lots of natural light so I can see outside; not too much noise, but equally not so silent that I’m afraid to speak; details about relevant information events coming up; a barista in the corner making the perfect coffee (I said DREAM waiting room); comfortable chairs; free wi-fi; no TV blaring health messages (although, one of my HCPs does have Bold and the Beautiful on loop, so I get to catch up on that when I’m in their waiting room once every 12 months); gorgeous prints on the walls (absolutely no scary photos); a pin board with research news.

In lieu of perfection, however, I’d just be happy with a comfortable chair, some architecture and house porn and a water station. And a lovely, non-judgemental HCP on the other side of the door.

What do the waiting rooms you’ve spent time in look like? What would you like to see?

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