Just how old are your waiting room magazines?

Same-day surgery staff members point with pride to their turnover times, numbers of procedures handled during a day, and outstanding clinical outcomes, but patients and their family members notice things such as waiting room reading material, noisy children, and their own hunger.

There are ways to reduce complaints about waiting rooms and improve your patient satisfaction scores, says Jackie Scott, RN, CAPA, performance improvement coordinator for surgical services at Gwinnett Hospital System in Lawrenceville, GA. First, make sure you have plenty of current reading material that appeals to a wide range of people, she suggests.

The next thing you can do is to look at your patient population, recommends Vicki Axsom-Brown, a same-day surgery consultant with Practice Resources in Anderson, SC. If your center handles all ages of patients, including pediatrics, be sure to remember that older patients don’t want to hear loud children or see children running around a waiting room, says Axsom-Brown. One freestanding center at which she worked, Medicus Surgery Center in Anderson, SC, set up separate pediatric and adult waiting areas, she says.

"Although there was a large window on the wall between the two areas, the pediatric waiting area was basically a soundproof playroom filled with toys and activities that were safe for all ages," Axsom-Brown explains. Not only did the adult patients appreciate the quieter waiting room, but parents of the pediatric patients appreciated the diversion the playroom offered their children as they waited, she adds.

Patients at freestanding centers don’t have the option of running to the hospital cafeteria for a snack or a drink, so Axsom-Brown suggests setting up a small area with coffee, water, juices, and small snacks such as cookies or crackers. "You don’t want a full-size vending area in a small waiting room, but you can provide some drinks and snacks on an honor system," she says.

Just post prices and ask people to pay by putting money in a box or piggy bank on the counter, she suggests. Pay attention to the location and number of televisions in your waiting room as well, suggests Mary Nash, RN, CNOR, director of the surgical services line at Gwinnett Hospital System.

"We place televisions in areas with separate seating so people have the option of watching or not watching," she says. If possible, have more than one television so people have a choice of the type of programming they can watch, she adds.