What’s it like to be a patient? My life as an Urban Juror.

Since this blog is more about the things I do than the data that’s out there, I’m going to recount my experience today in a bit of a rambling style, since other bloggers took the time to recount their juror experience which helped me get ready for mine.

I happened to be reading Change by Design, by Tim Brown (recommended to me by my Design Thinking Board of Directors – I’ll call them out in a future post, thank you!), which prompted me to make observations about my experience and parallels to health care (I feel like i have to be learning something, always….helps manage these situations). I put my thoughts in italics.

The day after the Kaiser Permanente leadership summit, I got up and presented to the Washington, DC Superior Court, Grand Jury Summons in hand.

It’s interesting how an experience in a different environment can feel so less enjoyable.

Going through the metal detector with others holding the boarding pass to the journey that no one wanted to go on was one of them.

What’s it like to be told that you have to be put in the hospital?

I found the courtroom and sat down. Pretty soon the rest of the chairs in the back were full.

What’s it like to be sitting at the admitting desk / bed control?

The man sitting next to me was eating probably the largest pastry ever made. The wax paper crumpled and his loud chewing didn’t seem to stop. There was no where else for me to sit, though. I had to stay where I was, and think about something else, occasionally peeking over to see if the pastry was done.

What’s it like to be in a semi-private hospital room?

The pastry eventually was finished. Then his coffee came out. Sip after sip, the loudest swallowing of liquid I’ve heard in a long time, too.

The person in front of me has a laptop and is typing out some e-mails. The sound of a keyboard is actually soothing.

We are greeted by staff – the welcome is warm, the instructions are clear, with a little bit of laughter positioned just right. I thought, here’s a team who have learned how to provide really good service to people who hope never to receive it. I was impressed.

Performing this service (Grand Jury) was not a good fit for me, I was offered petit jury, would I do that. Yes, I would.

I registered and sat in an even bigger room. Again, the staff greeted us in the most cheerful way (“Good morning! I said, GOOD MORNING!”).


Change by Design talks about about observations made by designers in health care who checked themselves into the emergency room with a faux trauma. They learn about the endless waiting and lack of information during the care process.

I look around, in this room of a few hundred, we’re all waiting, but patiently. We realize this is not an exact process, there’s an element of trust because I know they do this a lot. The official-lookingness of things also make you want to believe in its importance.

It is important, I wouldn’t want to suggest otherwise or think I could improve it.

What’s it like to wait, with trust in those who are making you wait, because you don’t have a choice?

Even though I bring reading material, something about not being free reduces the motivation ever so much. I get sleepy, lose touch a bit, sit and stare into space.

The DC Court provides free wi-fi. That’s a nice touch.

What’s it like to be in a hospital with no Wi-Fi or internet connectivity?

I’ve been in hospitals with way nicer art collections than they have here but have no free wi-fi.

( I checked on one such hospital’s web site, no mention of Wi-Fi for patients and families )

We are excused for lunch for one hour. I can walk again, around DC. Communicate with my family. It’s gorgeous outside.

Back from lunch. One of the judges decides they want to empanel a jury. People’s name and number are called, they have to respond with a verbal “here.” A few people yell, “present” for fun, and we all laugh.

Name after name.

In random order.

I’m not called.

Everyone who is called instructed to go to one of the courtrooms. Half the room empties. We’ll probably never see them again. Based on these odds, I am sure it will be my turn next.

What’s it like to get a hospital acquired infection?

About 30 minutes later, announcement overhead, all jurors are instructed to come into the lounge for an announcement. There are still 2 judges left and they may decide to empanel a Jury.

We hear overhead, “Do people here want to go home?” An audible, “YES!” And then, “OK, you’re done. Go home. Have a wonderful weekend. You are done for two years. Thank you for your service.”

The room erupts in applause and smiles.

What’s it like to be discharged from the hospital?

The Court staff has seen this reaction before, I know. They don’t take it personally. They smile and encourage. Smile and encourage. I would have served if called, and they would have made me feel good about it, by helping me understand the overall benefit, I am sure.

District of Columbia Courthouse.jpg

We all walk out together into a beautiful Washington day. I turned around and snapped a photograph.

What’s it like to walk out of a hospital as the person you were before you needed to be there, as if nothing bad ever happened?

It’s interesting what can happen to a person if the choices you take for granted are taken away, even for a few hours.

Change that to multiple months and that’s Donna Cryer’s ( @dcpatient ) liver transplant hospitalization.

It’s interesting to see how the people who work in this system have adapted their style to work with these citizens, to make this experience less painful, for the greater good.

I feel like they have adapted their behavior because they know deep inside that the people who come through did not ask to come here.

Has the health care system adapted with the knowledge deep inside with every patient they care for, that they did not ask to come here?

Even for patients who are especially vulnerable (racial and ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)?

I’m still reflecting on the answer to the above. I still don’t know what it’s like to be a patient in a hospital.




Ted this is one of you best posts. It is extremely well written and almost lyrical. The juxtaposition between the two experience types, juror and patient, is painfully apt. Thank you so much for sharing this experience.

-Regina Holliday


I was a bit anxious about writing this and almost (almost!) wanted to run it by you or Donna or Dave because I had doubts about whether the comparison I'm making is useful to the conversation. In the end, I have to own my own RSS feed, and as Jay Parkinson says, it is my RSS feed to own. With so many people worrying that social media is a potential threat to their reputation or a risk, your comment turns all of that around,


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