I walk in and something to the likes of ammonia blasts into my nasal canal and brings with it a strong sense of nostalgia. I walk a few steps to the front desk and the lady behind it says nothing. She just sits there wearing disney-themed scrubs and continues to look at her computer. There is a sign in sheet on the counter where I follow the instructions and check-in, writing my name and the time of my appointment.
I turn around to a room full of chairs, a few filled with patients that look more miserable than myself. There are a few magazines from three years ago sprawled on a dull coffee table. The pictures that adorn the walls look like stock photos that I have seen in places that are as boring and dreadful as this one.
I sit patiently, tapping my finger on my knee, waiting for my name to be called. I watch as other people get called and then brought like cattle through the swinging door and into the private office.
Without even telling you where I am, I’m sure you have already guessed it. And, most likely, you are dreading my experience at the doctors office with me because you have experienced the same exact thing. How is that? I went to the doctor in San Diego, California and given the introductions on the first day of class, I don’t think anyone else(or anyone who is reading this) went to the doctor in the same town as me, never mind the same exact doctors office. Yet, somehow, we all know this experience and recognize the doctors office for it’s terrible, unique smell, it’s stock-photo clad walls, it’s disney scrubs, and the dread of the whole experience.
The Western doctors office, for all the good that it does for people, does very little good for the individual on a personal level. Anything beyond a x-ray, a test, a scan, a prescription, or the like, a doctor has to reference a patient elsewhere. This is because of the placelessness of not only the experience of going to the doctor but also the aesthetic of the doctors office that immediately takes on this nature of placelessness.
It really is unfortunate because if the doctors offices made more of an effort to create a more unique ambiance and cultivate a personal relationship with patients, I am sure they could help so much more. In a class I am taking, a homeopathic doctor came in and told us about his practice. He explained how his initial consultation with a patient can last up to two hours. This is because he wants to get to know his patients, every detail, because those minute details could be the reason the patient is feeling some way or the other. He explained how in homeopathy it is crucial to look at the whole because the cure to one persons ear ache, for example, could be much different to the cure to someone else’s ear ache. It is this personalization and lack of structure in this alternative atmosphere that allows it to be more of a place, in experience and in aesthetic. He does’t wear scrubs and he listens to his patients beyond the words “I hurt my ___” and “I am feeling ____” (fill in the blank with whatever ailment). What he gives, says, or prescribes the patient is decided after the patient is done explaining their situation. Whenever I go to the doctor, I feel like a prescription is written for me before I even finishing explaining my symptoms. With that said, I think the doctors office can create a sense of place by losing the mechanic order of operations that it utilizes so that it can have better quality sessions with patients which will result in patients returning less.