what happened to the waiting room?

The anti Covid rules have revolutionized waiting rooms. Moyra Girelli explains how to try to make them welcoming but at the same time “safe”
The environment in which we live and work, as you know, says a lot about us. It expresses our style, our taste, our sensitivity for the people who live there, even if only temporarily. It says how much attention and care we have or don’t have for details, how much thought is behind it. Or how much is missing. I had already expressed myself on this issue a couple of years ago, in the article “The bathroom is your best business card”, which also caused a slight stir.
Today the focus is different. The waiting rooms of dental practices – post Covid – have become, even more and more and more forcefully, what the French anthropologist Marc Augè defines as non-lieu, not places. They are bare, impersonal, aseptic.
If until last February, they could be perceived and experienced as places of decompression (those who came to the studio in a rush and often stressed, could relax for a few minutes before being accompanied to the unit), or of minimal entertainment (they could allow themselves reading some magazines, which you may not usually buy) or socializing (the good old pleasure of exchanging a few words face to face with other patients), this is no longer the case. The stop, now, must be as short as possible and there must be no object to touch, or almost. No newspapers and magazines. No games and colors for boys and girls. No candy. Just a few chairs or stools and the hand gel. End.
A desolation.
Under these conditions, which are due and necessary, as well as imposed by ministerial indications, how can they be done to keep alive their function as places of welcome, as well as of waiting?
How can you make that place and time, which are an integral part of the patient’s experience of using your services, equally enjoyable?
There are some precautions, which we consider so obvious that we take them for granted and, consequently, do not care as they deserve. If we think in terms of sensory marketing, removing touch and taste, senses that, in this particular historical moment, we are not allowed to involve, we still have sight, hearing and smell to focus on. To satisfy the eye, create a pleasant environment. Use colors (August is a great month for painting!) And make sure that those few objects that can be used are beautiful to look at. Not recycled chairs, one different from the other in color, style, age and shape. Only beautiful things and – why not? – of design.
Furthermore, colors have a very powerful impact on our brain, so it is worth knowing the chromatic rules and carefully choosing the nuances we want to use. Among the books on the subject, I point out “Cromorama. How colors have changed our gaze ”by Riccardo Falcinelli, who can give you valuable suggestions.
To pleasantly tickle your hearing, use music. Guessing the tastes of patients is not always easy, because they are many and different, but it can be avoided by focusing on the great universal artists and changing musical genres with a certain frequency during the day. Pay attention to the volume, which must not be too loud and annoying, nor so low and in the background as to make the music itself unrecognizable (and in vain).
To gratify your sense of smell, use high-quality room fragrances. Avoid products from large retailers, which rarely have pleasant smells. Focus on more refined aromas and fragrances, which you can find in specialized stores. Although more expensive – you pay for quality, you know – as well as being objectively better to smell, they also last much longer. It may seem like an irrelevant detail, but it isn’t at all. When we enter a hotel, shop or other environment where there is an excellent perfume, which smells of elegance and refinement, we immediately notice the difference.
Many dentists and doctors, in general, believe that a healthy and sanitized environment should know about detergent and chemistry, but this is not the case. “The smell of a hospital” makes patients uncomfortable, at times terrifies them, certainly does not reassure them.
Precisely in this regard, given that 15-20% of people suffer from dental phobia and that another large percentage consider it a discomfort to go to the dentist – more details are reported in a recent article on Dentistry33 – to have a lot of attention and respect for the place where patients spend time before sitting on the unit, can have the effect of relaxing them and generating mental assent fields, which emotionally predispose the person to be more receptive and collaborative during treatment.
Even what is transmitted on the screen, where it exists, can be functional or dysfunctional for the purpose. The news bulletin, for example, which we often see running, usually without audio, it can make you nervous or distressed or worried, as well as certain projections of clinical cases treated (fortunately they are seen more and more rarely), which are more suitable for conferences between doctors than for patients, who poorly tolerate the sight of battered mouths that are restored. Much more useful is to project splendid travel documentaries – with active audio – which have the primary advantage of putting people in a good mood and, the collateral, of expanding their level of knowledge and culture.
Last but not least, attention must be paid, especially in this season, to the temperature of the premises. If it is true that the extreme heat is intolerable, so is the freezer mode. Not everyone loves living in a freezer, besides the fact that the temperature difference between inside and outside can cause unpleasant side effects. There are many precautions, it is true, but they are worth your investment, because they make people feel thought and important. They strengthen the emotional bond and trust with your patients and create a sense of belonging and loyalty.