Notice to doctors: you are not helping your patients one tiny bit by decorating your exam rooms with those ghastly human anatomy posters.
When I go to see the doctor, it is with a reasonable expectation that I am going to feel better by doing so. If it’s the annual check-up, I convince myself that it is in my best interest to go if only to get the reassuring news that there is nothing whatever wrong. Or even on the occasions when my primary care physician sends me along to specialists whose opinions are usually sought when there might just be something serious going on, I figure that these professionals will at least have some comforting words or a treatment plan or something that will ease my anxiety, such as words to the effect of, “here’s what wrong with you.” (Now I know, thank you!) So, unless the news is about to be catastrophic, I certainly don’t expect to be scared to death by décor. Doctors’ offices are no place for the squeamish.
Now, doctors study anatomy for years, so they probably have had a chance to get used to the sight of guts and such. The last anatomy I studied was a frog’s in grade 12 biology class. And that made me nauseous. So, you can understand why I don’t like to look at giant illustrations of the human interior, especially the poster labeled, Diseases of the Human Digestive Tract, which shows all the lesions, polyps, ulcers, tumors and carbuncles the body is capable of producing. This is not the least bit helpful for someone like me who developed Reader’s Digest Syndrome at an early age (RDS, as it is known to sufferers, is a disease caused by reading gruesome, detailed accounts of human suffering in your parents’ monthly issues of Reader’s Digest imagining that you have every ailment going, even though you are only 9 and don’t even have a prostate.)
I was in such an exam room this past week. It was tiny. All four walls were plastered with grisly posters. I had forgotten to take a magazine in with me and still don’t own an iPhone, so I was stuck with no diversions. I could almost bring myself to glance at one illustration detailing the liver with all its lobes and ducts, but I only looked at it for a second. And there was nowhere else to look! Every which way I turned there was the entire body cavity staring at me – enlarged to such a degree that the parts looked like they came out of a giant Sasquatch. My eyes darted around the room. I started to sweat. It was like a horror movie. I finally landed on a small notice above the sink telling staff that they should wash their hands between patients. I was staring at it when the zombie… er, nurse came in. I think I might have shrieked. “Just need to take your blood pressure,” she chirped cheerily. “Oooh! 155 over 90! A bit high today!” No kidding.
O.K., I recognize the benefit doctors might find in having pictures handy to show patients who are a bit dyslexic on anatomy. But really, don’t we all know where the large intestine is located by this time? Remember the frog? (Do frogs have them? I think I remember a tiny amphibian bowel in that high school dissection class.) But why not use flash cards to explain the fine points? Or a cute little plastic model? Something that can be tucked away in a cupboard, out of view, thank you very much. Anything but a poster!
By contrast, my kindly primary physician has beautiful photographs of nature scenes in his exam rooms. They are very soothing. My chiropractor’s office has lifestyle posters. His receptionist team sometimes decorates the waiting room in themes and dresses up in costumes to coordinate. Every month they prop a plastic spine up on the counter with a talking bubble taped to it telling us what the “Disc of the Month” has to say. This month it was C4’s turn. Honestly, isn’t this so much cuter than scaring people half to death with a medical poster? My blood pressure is already high enough!