Recently I stayed overnight at a modernesque full-service hospital with a family member who had surgery. It was outpatient, not more than two days and one night.
The morning of their surgery, I went to put their stuff in their room while they were under the knife. The room was at the end of the hall. Nice & quiet, private room, surprising scenic views, free lunches for the patient's "coach"...all the hospital amenities patients long for. Overall, it was a great stay for my family member.
I did what most visitors do when walking in a hospital while a family member is under the knife: I thought about everything except how the signage would work. I was just another visitor who assumed it would work.
As I walked under the first sign pointing ahead to the elevators, I thought about the pain my family member was going through and praying this surgery would ease the pain.
By the time I was passing under the second sign , I was running through potential appointments and schedules to make sure things ran smoothly for my family member.
I cruised right on past the third sign because I was considering alternative transportation for the patient in case the passenger's seat of their own car wasn't long enough for them to fit their bandaged extremities.
It broke me out of my cross-country-train-trip of thoughts. "Exit?" It didn't align with the iconography, theme, or messaging that lead me to this point in the hallway. But, with 47 other things on my mind, I shrugged and thought, "Sure. Why not?" and kept following the signs.
This end had as scenic and panoramic of a view as the side my where my family member was staying, but there were no elevators in sight, nor was there the lobby that contained the elevator.
This time around, I paid attention to the room numbers as well. Once they numbers got down to #01, I knew to look for the lobby. Sure enough, there it was, tucked in between the rooms. You think I would have heard it with all the telecommuters using the area as their personal conference room. But like walking the other side, the signs weren't enough.
Later on that day, during a break, I double checked my steps on that floor and the floor below just to make sure I wasn't crazier than I normally am. Sure enough I wasn't.
By the second day I started playing traffic cop for others by the lobby area who were performing pirouettes while navigating where next to go.
Visitors don't go to hospitals for tourism or entertainment reasons. Many times, hospitals are tools to visitors, a means to an end. Whether or not the feeling is deserved, visitors don't often view hospitals as a magical place of healing. They are demanding, expecting things to simply work. From the parking to the entrance to the front desk to the room, they just expect it to happen. It isn't a perfect world, but in a world where the visitors still have the wherewithal to focus on their loved ones, hospitals will continue to need the wherewithal to focus on their patients as well as their visitors. Afterall, visitors are typically the loved ones of their patients.
Sometimes, all it takes is an extra sign here or there to show the way.