By Mel McConaghy
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, you could tell with a glance exactly what the people you saw in a hospital were.
The nurses all proudly wore their starched white uniforms as they performed their duties with authority and efficiency. Their very bearing told you that you could count on them in an emergency.
There was no mistaking them for a cleaning person, or cafeteria personnel. Nurses aids had their own uniforms, made beds and bathed patients so the nurses could concentrate on tending to the needs of the sick and injured. Doctors wore their crisp white lab coats with authority and distinction, marking them as people to be trusted with your health and recovery. Candy stripers, young ladies who volunteered their time to comfort patients by reading to them or just being there, were conspicuous in their snazzy red and white uniforms. They were a comfort to a great many senior citizens, who sadly found themselves suffering through their last days, all alone in the world.
But then, bad things began happening in our hospitals. First, the nurses aids and Candy stripers disappeared, and then the distinctive uniforms. The uniforms that at one time represented the accomplishments of the person wearing them, a measure of the respect that they deserved. Today when I visit the hospital, it’s hard to tell who’s doing what, and it seems like everybody now comes to work in pajamas! Who am I supposed to turn to in an emergency? Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but it seems that hospitals are a lot less efficient than they use to be when the nurses did not have to explain that they were a nurse, not housekeeping staff, and doctors were not mistaken for visitors there to see patients.
Something I learned in the military, is that uniformity promotes efficiency, and in my opinion, even though medicine’s improved by leaps and bounds over the years, efficiency has not.
Fortunately, one thing has not changed, and that’s the smiling faces above the pink smocks that greet you at the information desk in the main lobby and the gift shops at the hospitals. They go out of their way to direct people, from every walk of life, through the maze of hospitals’ hallways and departments, to get to a destination, or find the person they’re looking for. They are also the loving people who distribute books and magazines to patients in hospitals. These amazing people rarely get any credit or recognition, yet so many of these volunteers have been doing the jobs for decades. So, the next time you are at the hospital, say thanks to them, give them a smile, or wave hello. For an old guy like me, they are the only people who still reassure me that I am even at a hospital, and not a big box pajama liquidation center.
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com