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Toni Talks about PT Today

Patients Have the Right of Way

Published February 11, 2010 8:55 AM by Toni Patt
Earlier this week I took one of my patients to the hospital lobby so we could work on walking in a distracting environment. There is a world of difference between walking in a relatively controlled environment of the unit and walking in the real world. This time it wasn't the patient being challenged, it was me. I was so shocked by how many people got in my patient's way, I could barely concentrate on helping her.

Back in the day, the patient always got the right of way. It didn't matter how slowly we were walking or how much hall space we took up. People got out of the way. No one got too close. People stood at a respectful distance and waited. I can remember seeing parents holding small children so they wouldn't get in the way. Not anymore.

In the course of a 60-minute treatment, two separate women pushing all terrain strollers nearly knocked my patient over in their efforts to get past.   Nearly a dozen people walked right in front of her in their hurry to get to the escalators we were walking toward. One man was so busy on his phone I had to grab her to avoid him. The lobby is huge. There is plenty of room for all of these people to get around us or, as in the case of the stroller women, use a different ramp.

The only obstacle we missed was small children coming out of nowhere to run into us.  That happens regularly on the floor.  I've been scolded twice by parents for asking their children to stay out of the way while I walked someone.  Another woman yelled at me when I asked her child to not play on the training stairs. I was afraid he would get hurt or accidently kick my patient while he was swinging from the handrail. I don't' understand what these people are thinking.

What is going on with these people? It seems like they've forgotten the patient is the reason the hospital exists. My patients are unstable enough without having to run an obstacle course of non-observant pedestrian traffic. At least I hope they're non-observant. I would hate to think these people can see the situation and don't care. Lately the only ones who get out of the way are the doctors and they're the last group I would expect to yield the right of way. 

I've had housekeepers move furniture for me. Others have waited with linen carts for us to either pass or get out of the way. Even people pushing huge trash carts will wait for us.  Why can't the pedestrians do the same?  I can't believe the extra few minutes makes that big of difference to them.  I hate to say it.  I think the answer lies somewhere between rudeness and lack of consideration.  A whole generation of parents didn't teach their children any manners.  That is sad.

I realize I take up most of a hall when I have a patient, a chair, a tech, a wheelchair and an assistive device.  I know we're moving slowly. Anyone who works with this population knows nothing comes quickly.  All I ask is a little patience from everyone else. 

posted by Toni Patt


Sometimes, I don't even have to leave our inpatient rehab unit for a "real world" feel of pedestrian traffic. You're right, it seems as if people have forgotten that hospitals are for patients.  Even the residents in our hospital are the same way. I stopped counting the times they've cut us off and walked past my patients during gait training. Some of them don't even bother apologizing. I suppose people these days have too much on their mind that they end up being oblivious of others.

Melanie, , PT IRF March 6, 2010 9:30 PM

This reminds of the time I was walking a CVA patient out side of the gym and a delivery person pushing a cart was trying to pass us.  He physically moved the patients hemiwalker so his cart could get through as we took a short standing rest.  

Fortunately the patient didn't fall, but it is real life stuff that could result in a greater injury.  

jason February 14, 2010 9:49 PM

Entitlement. That is the attitude that you're describing among the general public. Children are entitled to play on training stairs because they are just children and then if they do get hurt the parents are entitled to damages because the hospital created a dangerous environment without sufficient signage about the dangers there.

It seems everyone these days feels they are entitled to plow over the next person, be it a mother with a stroller (they use them as battering rams on NYC sidewalks), a person chatting on a cellphone regarding very important things like who was kicked off American Idol, or my favorite, the drivers texting and chatting.

The only silver lining to this story is that you really have helped train your patient for the "real world".

Dean Metz February 11, 2010 11:49 AM

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