Airport Terminals and Hospitals

The other day as I sat in the entrance atrium of the hospital after a day’s work, waiting for one of my walking buddies (we walk a mile to Grand Central Station as part of our daily walking/step program) I realized how Hospitals and Airport Terminals are similar. And a memory of sitting at Barajas in Spain popped up…

That particular trip had me waiting for one of my cousins who lived in Spain, but on that same day of my arrival he was likewise arriving from Portugal. I was to wait until his arrival so we could head not home but to the bus station to pick up his sister who was also arriving into Madrid that same night. I arrived at Barajas during mid morning and as usual I made sure to pick up a few calling cards; get a map of Madrid; eat lunch and settle down to read a book while I waited.

The airport was humming with activity; and I noticed from my vantage point close to my cousin’s arrival terminal, one woman whose job was to clean the ash trays and garbage bins on that strip. I would see her come and go, up and down the strip every fifteen minutes or so- thoroughly cleaning each ash tray and trash bin. She would be followed a few minutes later by the sweeper/floor washer who meticulously did every inch of the polished floor; always making sure that the floor was utterly dry before moving on… it looked like some type of janitorial ballet -this pair’s dance; leaving behind their ritual a fresh smelling fragrance for all to enjoy as they walked, ran, sat or waited along this walkway.

I was impressed by their dedication,  their never ending dance…

As my mind’s eye returned to view the Hospital’s atrium, I was disillusioned to see that the same was not the case before me… At this particular hour, at the rush hour of exiting employees and incoming visitors to patients, what I saw were dirty, dusty floors, garbage strewn helter-skelter around the massive area. The patients of the day had been through here as well as the doctors and other non-medical staff -they had left their carbon footprint everywhere. And what it had been at 6:30 in the morning of sparkling floors, windows and revolving doors was now a miasma of dust, finger and hand prints, and paper dust bunnies… I wished for a moment that those two I saw at Barajas were employed here in our hospital- doing their janitorial ballet not only for the benefit of the employees but for the patients and their visitors…

Hospitals as much as they are like Airports in their 24/7- 365 workload; differ from airports in that many in administration tend to view operations as more a 9 to 5 thing. We put our blinders on, turn off our lights, close our offices, and head out of  “town” at the end of our particular work cycle… everything seems to take on a “do-it-tomorrow” mode after 5:00 pm- yet our patients continue needing us through out the day and night…

In our administration we have made half hearted attempts at saying we are a 24/7 operation, but our actual actions belie this… just seeing that there isn’t a janitorial dance at 5:00 pm confirms that we really only work for our benefit…we keep the place clean for us… we keep the place functioning for us; to make our work easier, faster, better… But do we stop truly to see if all our “busy-ness” adds value to the patient and their families?

Maybe (of course) we do; but somewhere we stop just shy of making it our all consuming passion…


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