For the past couple of months I’ve been working in the communications department of a hospital. Every day I walk through the entrance of the hospital after finding a parking spot in the staff area — a trial of human accomplishment if I do say so myself — and I make my way to my office on the ground floor.
On this route I walk past the busy reception area, past the popular coffee-shop branch and shops that sell groceries, toiletries, clothes and gifts to patients and staff; past the signposts that exist to inform visitors of the whereabouts of all the various clinical areas, some of which I’ve yet to discover how to pronounce let alone know what they entail; past posters and paintings designed to please the eyes and promote policies; past hordes of patients waiting for prescriptions at the in-house pharmacy; past doctors and nurses and many other medical professionals I’ve yet to meet waiting for their morning coffees and chatting about their schedules; past ordinary people pushing elderly relatives or partners in wheelchairs into and from wards for check-ups or appointments; past the easily identifiable hospital patients making their way from their wards down to the shops in their pyjamas, house slippers and sometimes mobile drips to go for a cigarette in the freezing cold or get a decent cup of coffee; past colleagues who are also frantically seeking caffeine before the day begins; down the stairs and past the executive offices with their high-performing, high-pressured occupants with smart clothing and pointed greetings; past the secretaries offices; past the cleaners who are finishing their rounds and into my office, which I share with four other people. I sit facing a window, outside of which is a concrete swan.
Visiting a hospital is not normal, and it is something that none of us hopes to do very often in our lives. Working in one is difficult...
This daily obstacle course rouses different thoughts and feelings in me and they are never the same. The range of people I drift past every day changes like the tides of the oceans. People coming, from where I have no idea, and where they are going I know not. Some have the faces of those who are worried, others angry or afraid. Some have weary smiles that greet strangers such as myself, eyes flitting around for others to settle on, appealing for a touch of warmth or a flicker of understanding.
I imagine the immeasurable experiences they have had collectively, every one going about their lives in the most normal and abnormal way. Their individual fragility and vulnerability marked against the collective strength of the hospital and all the parts that make up this weird and wonderful place people go to get help.
Visiting a hospital is not normal, and it is something that none of us hopes to do very often in our lives. Working in one is difficult, although what I do is nothing compared with the patient and clinical side, and I can only imagine the stories that are made, altered and ended on those hospital wards every day. Too many stories to write.
My walk to the office through the various layers of the hospital gives me perspective and allows me to immerse myself in the lives of other people for a few brief moments and dismiss my own problems, which never seem that bad.
The hospital is a microcosm of society and brings everyone to their bare essence no matter who they are or where they come from. We are all only humans who have the same feelings, fears and failings, but who try and live as best we can.
That is also the beauty of the NHS; that it doesn’t matter how much money you have or who you are we’ll all be treated the same, and treated in the best way we can be, by these amazing medical professionals.
— Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.