Medical practitioners often put their patients first – but the price could be compassion fatigue. Dr Frank Jones, President of the RACGP, and Dr Frank Meumann, President of the region’s Balint Society, explain how sharing experiences can have a positive impact.
15 September 2014
Your waiting room holds a captive audience – whatever your patients see, hear and feel while they’re there can shape their opinion of you and your practice.
Therefore, as Director of Rooms With Style, Caroline Chaplin explains, “It’s vital your waiting room is conveying the right message”.
Rooms With Style provides an extensive range of services exclusively for medical professionals, including project management of renovations and fit-outs. Chaplin believes that with clever use of colour, lighting and soft furnishings, you can create the right effect for a relatively low cost.
But first you need a clear idea of who you want to attract. “If you specialise in treating the elderly you’ll want a different kind of waiting room from a general practitioner who focuses on family health,” says Chaplin.
Colour is a powerful tool; it creates an atmosphere and can make your space appear bigger or smaller. Chaplin recommends a 60:30:10 approach to walls, floor and the ‘wow’ factor.
“The beauty of doing it this way is that the colour balance always works and, when you get tired of your ‘wow’ colour, you can easily change it. For example, you might have cream walls and a latte carpet then add a splash of citrus green with cushions, artwork and a vase at the desk,” says Chaplin. “When citrus goes out of fashion, you can easily replace those accents to revitalise and update the whole waiting room for very little effort and cost.”
Lighting must be functional enough for people to move around safely without too much glare. “A warm white light creates a comfortable, welcoming environment and lamps can create a sense of softness and intimacy – though, of course, hot globes must be well out of reach,” says Chaplin.
Chaplin has found that most patients prefer to sit rather than lounge while they wait to be seen, so look to provide chairs that are comfortable without being too soft, and that match your patient demographic. The elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities might struggle to get in and out of chairs that are too low.
Too much clinical information in the waiting room can lead to anxiety, so keep the detail for the treatment rooms. This way, when patients enter the treatment room, they can discuss any fears with you right away. And ensure that your magazines are appropriate and up-to-date.
What can your patients hear?
Train your staff to treat patient information with respect. “For example, they should never ask the reason for a visit within earshot of other patients,” says Chaplin. “Soft furnishings can be used to absorb sound and, if you have an APRA licence, you can play music.”
A sense of calm and order
A clean and orderly waiting room is reassuring. “Keep clutter to a minimum and make it clear that cleanliness matters,” says Chaplin. “For example, if you have toys, put up a small sign saying that they’re regularly washed.”
Your waiting room checklist
- Comfortable but not too soft
- Appropriate height
- Arms in good condition
- Wide chairs available
- Minimum glare
- The right mood
- Safety: navigation
- Safety: hot globes or shades
- Does it create the mood you want?
- What can be removed?
- Does it stop patients from moving around easily?
- Current and appropriate
- Good condition – no stains, tears or pages missing
- Could any material cause anxiety or stress?
- Are you missing any new-age touches?
- For example, could you offer WiFi?
- No stains
- What can you hear from reception?
- What can you hear from consulting rooms?