I am not going complain about my hospital’s ability to care for you if you need to be cared for. They have great doctors, a huge medical school and research department. They are polite, accommodating, and have more than enough parking — and even though you have to pay for it, it’s not expensive and it’s really convenient, especially when walking isn’t something you are good at.

The University of Massachusetts Hospital, aka UMass, is huge. It has five really big buildings on the main campus and at least four other campuses with multiple huge buildings all up and down route 9 in Worcester. They also have (or used to have — I don’t know what has happened with COVID) the best cafeteria I’ve ever seen in any hospital (and better than most restaurants) including a fine professional fresh Sushi counter.

Like most modern hospitals, once you get into the hospital, finding anything is a matter of luck and bumping into people the hallway who know where something (other than the place they work) is located. This can be a problem. Everyone knows where their own office is, but no one seems to know where anything else is. If it isn’t their specific area, they are as murky about location as you are, which is pretty murky. And therein lies the problem.

New England in general has an issue with signage. There an attitudinal issue that if you don’t know where you are, why are you here? Massachusetts is the worst. There may be signs (MAY be) at intersections, but you can drive for miles and there’s no sign telling you what road you are on. If you stop and ask for directions, inevitably the person you ask isn’t from “around there” and only knows how to get to that place because they work there. They don’t know about anything else. Even in the hospital, if you call and ask where a particular department is, the person on the phone pretty much never knows the answer. They can barely find their way to their own place of work, much less yours.

Like most hospitals, it was planned one way and has expanded well beyond its intended size and capacity. New departments have been added hither and yon, wherever a space could be found for them and many are divided between multiple buildings. Garry’s hearing department is in two separate buildings and two different campuses. The Cardiac Department is on two floors and your doctor may work on either one, depending on the day.

There are parking garages everywhere and long sidewalks between buildings. A trip to UMass can be a lot of walking for someone who isn’t a good walker. And now, with COVID, they won’t let both of you into the doctor’s office at the same time.

Today I realized that what they REALLY need at UMass are signs. There aren’t even signs on the front of each building telling you what is in that building. The main building on the main campus must have a dozen departments in it, including the day hospital for minor (and not so minor) surgery. The Cardiac unit is tucked into the end of a building built for research, and it’s a long walk from the elevator. Nowhere is there a sign pointing you or your car in the right direction.

I do not have a sense of direction. I am permanently lost, on foot and in the car. Even though I’ve been in that building at least three times before, I can never find it and always wind up in the research department or Medical School.

I am lobbying for signs. You can buy them in the hardware department of Home Depot or Lowe’s. Or Ace. Wherever stuff for homes is sold, they have signs. Give me a hundred dollars and I’ll buy the signs and a roll of duct tape. I’ll go all around the campus and put up signs everywhere. If they want to get fancy, they can — when they are feeling flush. In the meantime, I want arrows pointing me to the building where the cardiac unit is. To each building’s valet parking. I want arrows telling me which elevators go to which floors AND what I will find when I get to that floor. I want signs telling me where to find the door that goes to my valet parking or garage.

I told them: “You buy the signs. I’ll bring duct tape!” I was there for close to an hour before I finally discovered my doctor’s department and fortunately, the doctor still in it. I want signs. Arrows. Information. Please?

Categories: Anecdote, Hearing, Humor, Photography

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15 replies

  1. Man, I’ve lucked out. I’ve been going to the hospital to meet some specialists for the past few months and they have very helpful directories just about everywhere… at least in the main lobbies. At the head of each hallway are arrow signs and room numbers/departments.

    And there’s even a touch-screen one where if you’re looking for a doc or department (and maybe forgot a piece of info), you can do a search and pull up the info (I had to use one when I realized I mixed up the number I was looking for, saved me 10 minutes).

    Wow–I’ve lucked out where I am. They’re doing major construction at the hospital, too, expanding the parking lot and other stuff. Every time they change something, they’ve got temporary signs everywhere.

    Not trying to rub it in, I’m just amazed how in a place that is supposed to be about good health and doing what they can to help you reach it, they make it near impossible to get you anywhere. Maybe in Texas they’re more afraid an impatient and worried love one will pull a gun out and threaten to shoot a poor janitor if they don’t get answers right away, I dunno.


  2. We have a similar problem here in UK. There are signs, but most are not easy to understand so you still end up wandering around like an idiot… I just hope it isn’t symbolic of the mindset of the people who work there!


    • Maybe they can’t find anyone to do it? Everyone is doing something medical? I have no idea, but it’s maddening to get there EARLY, wander the grounds and one or two building for an hour, and finally land where you should be LATE. It’s especially annoying when you aren’t feeling well anyway, but you still have to find your way through a labyrinth — a helpless victim to a non-signed hospital.


  3. To your post re the election – which bizzarely disappeared from the net – YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT SUPER-DOOPER POST DOWSN!!! – I MEANT to say:
    THE BEST POST EVER – and yet, we’re still – here on another morning in Europe – WAITING!


  4. Reminds me of France’s airports. NADA – whenever we had friends coming who didn’t speak French, they were utterly andd totally lost. It’s as if the French don’t WANT any tourists and visitors to come. But in a hospital? This is absolutely NO GO. You don’t want to go there and then, by the time, you finally got where you were called to, you’re in such a state that a heart monitor should await you. I can’t believe such a negligence. And as someone with ZERO sense of directions I agonize with you, step by bloody step – in the wrong direction!


    • I do not hate airlines. I HATE AIRPORTS. NONE of the have signs or if they do, the point straight up, like the lady’s room is up in the rafters. This is just the same post. I just moved it since it was getting lost in the older material. In the realm of problems we all have that probably aren’t REALLY tragic but drive us crazy anyway, the lack of directions and signs stands out as a big one. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours Garry and I have spent trying to find the right parking lot, elevator, hallway, information desk and finally … THE DOCTOR!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Royal Hobart is a pretty small hospital but certainly has the same rabbit warren characteristics. The first time I went there to visit someone I found that out. The person was in the North Wing but to get to it I had to go down a corridor marked South. Made no sense to me. They were building all the time David was there and some days you might not be able to get an elevator for 15 minutes because some were out of service. I could understand why the staff favoured building a new hospital on a greenfields site rather than adding on to the current one.


    • I actually thing ALL modern hospitals especially those which are new extensions on old buildings which are expansions from earlier building. One hospital used to have painted lines in color and you followed the right colored line to your department. Follow the yellow brick road? Is this Oz?

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It seems to be the dominating characteristic of hospitals – they are incredibly difficult to navigate. They are a maze of corridors and usually poorly signed.


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