As a medical resident working 30-hour shifts, I quickly came to cherish those rare moments when I could duck out of the bustling and brightly lit hospital corridors and lay my head on a pillow.
Granted, it was often in a barren call room with a stiff mattress and a rumbling heater. There I’d lie, counting the seconds before an alarm sounded to alert me that a patient might have shifted in bed or an IV medication finished, or an overhead page called some doctor (please, not me!) to some floor to deal with yet another issue.
But as hard as it might be for doctors to rest in the hospital, it’s infinitely harder for patients.
I see this every time I trudge from my call room to a patient’s room. I tiptoe past Bed A to Bed B, where a patient might be moaning in pain or coughing uncontrollably. The patient is not the only one suffering: His roommate, typically separated by a flimsy curtain, also can’t sleep a wink all night.
As a doctor, I’m struck daily by how much better hospitals could be designed. Hospitals are among the most expensive facilities to build, with complex infrastructures, technologies, regulations and safety codes. But evidence suggests we’ve been building them all wrong — and that the deficiencies aren’t simply unaesthetic or inconvenient. All those design flaws may be killing us.