The look #WILTW

This is the 132nd #WILTW

It is late at night but the waiting room is full. There are parents and children everywhere. Prams provide an obstacle course for waddling toddlers, crying babies don’t quite succeed in drowning out the irritating background disney song and there is a palpable tension in the air.

You need to walk through the waiting room. Some have been there for hours; anxious for their children, tired and probably hungry. You know they will be looking at you with a mixture of expectation, despair and perhaps even anger.

In all walks of life eye contact is required as a fundamental part of communication. Accidentally or deliberately not maintaining it creates  unease and mistrust and can infer anything from undue deference to deliberate defiance. In a small glance you can recognise a huge variety of emotions; there don’t need to be words or body movements, the posture of a person’s body tells you much about them.

And that is why that walk is so difficult. Do you acknowledge each and every person who looks at you? See their frustration and sit with it. Even though, because you’ve been called to see a very unwell child, you know there wait is going to be that much longer?


Or do you put your head down and walk at pace. Ignore the stares piercing your back hoping they understand you are as conflicted as they are frustrated. Wanting to reassure all; but knowing there isn’t the capacity or time to do so.

The ‘look’ from waiting room is a huge cognitive distraction – it weighs on you even when you are not subject to its glare. It is not the fault of the parents or carers that this pressure exists nor is it callous of health care professionals to feel it. It is symptom of health care demand and a testament to the fact that health care professionals maintain that essence of respect and dignity in their practice. Do I wish I could keep my head down? Yes I do. But to not feel this discomfort would be a far greater cause for concern.

What did you learn this week? #WILTW

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