According to MindTools.com, it takes just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, for someone to evaluate you upon meeting for the first time. In this short amount of time, one can quickly form an opinion about another. As professionals, we are well aware that first impressions are important for various reasons not the least of which is the fact that they are incredibly difficult to change. But what about the first impressions of a wound care center? Do these first impressions count?
Allow me tell you about a recent visit I made to an outpatient wound clinic so you can judge for yourself. The center is affiliated with a hospital but located in an offsite medical office building. Upon opening the door to the suite, I scanned the empty waiting room and immediately noticed it was dark and dirty. I walked up to the reception desk only to find the receptionist face down on her desk. She greeted me with a big yawn and outstretched arms after I tapped her desk and said “Hello!” “Wow… I didn’t get much sleep last night,” she grunted. I asked for the doctor and she directed me to sit down. The waiting room was sorely in need of thorough cleaning and a coat of fresh paint. The chairs were all narrow armchairs set too closely together. I thought about my overweight patients with diabetic foot ulcers and how the seating certainly wasn’t appropriate for anyone with a body mass index greater than 30. I picked up what I thought was a recent issue of TIME to occupy myself as I waited, only to find out the issue was two years old. I did not form a very good first impression of this place. In fact, I started to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I tried to understand how a wound center directed by a colleague with a stellar reputation could appear so bleak and dismal. I felt so badly for the patients who were probably nervous about coming in the first place and to make matters worse were subject to this.
To pass the time, I began to ponder. I imagined what I could do with a small budget to spruce up the atmosphere. I envisioned aesthetic color on the walls and several framed educational posters illuminated by brighter lighting. I saw some new wider chairs, a table with current reading material, some nice plants or maybe a fish tank. A big empty wall was perfect for a rack filled with educational materials. Patient nerves would be instantly calmed with light music serenading a more relaxed atmosphere. A water cooler to combat the Florida heat and humidity would also be appreciated. Last but certainly not least, the suite door would have a bell so that as soon as it was opened the staff would be alerted to greet every newcomer with a smile.
Budgets are tight and we are all doing more with less but how much is it costing you when patients don’t return because of a neglected physical plant or a poor first impression? Take a look around your wound care center and view it from the patient’s point of view. See if you like your own first impression. A trip to the wound center for debridement is not most people’s choice of how to spend the afternoon. With a small effort we can at least make it as pleasant as possible.