On Monday, after our weekend spent looking after a friend in the hospital, we posted the makeshift phone table we devised by turning a foot stool on its side, so our friend could easily reach the phone. Like many prototypes, our design needed tweaking after it had actually been put to use. The problem: our friend was tethered to monitors and IV’s so didn’t have his usual dexterity. The rigged table tipped over easily.

So we made an improvement to our phone table, using what was around.We applied simple design thinking. We asked ourselves: What problem do we need to solve? and then What can we use to solve this problem?.

For our phone table, we employed another foot stool (we’ve never seen a hospital room with so many foot stools!).

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

We stacked the original foot stool securely on a second one to make a table of just the right height, that could withstand both our friend’s and the hospital staff’s need to work in different ways. It worked perfectly, a much improved — though not so sleek — version of our original.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

In the course of our stay, we found ourselves improvising all sorts of solutions to make our friend more comfortable, including re-arranging the room a bit. The high-backed chair in the corner was right in front of the window, obstructing the lovely view of the river; we couldn’t help moving the heavy chairs around to open up the view and make the flow of the room better.

We pressed all the buttons on the bed’s control panel and taught our in-shock friend how to turn the glaring light on, off or down, and make the bed change position.

We became something of a guerrilla on the floor:
—We surveilled the halls and discovered a big cart full of clean linens and towels, loosely draped with a plastic cover. So we helped ourselves when no one was looking. We found where they hid the surgical tape, so we could affix the oxygen line loosely to the bed, as well as the call button panel; both kept falling on the floor.

—We cased the joint to find the ice machine and a fridge where we could store the REAL food we had brought.  We found the snack supply they keep on hand for patients.

—We brought in paper plates for the adhoc picnics with visiting friends, a roll of paper towels (endlessly useful), as well as sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil and good vinegar to make both hospital food and necessary take-out (for us) palatable. We also brought good loose tea that we put into paper tea bags at home. It’s amazing what a few little food items can do to fortify.


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2 replies on “Apply Design Thinking Anywhere, Even the Hospital

  1. OMG, I totally, totally love this! “Use the difficulty!” Design problem-solving in a hospital room! Wow! 🙂

    No such luck with cute little red footstools in the hospital I’ve spent time in, though. I was just in one recently with a family member (waiting, waiting, waiting for the doctor to come), and I thought at the time that hospitals need a major design upgrade. They are such depressing places to be in (at a time when you’re already stressed out by the reason you’re there).

  2. I hear you about other hospital rooms. You never know what you will get. My friend’s was curiously kind of “luxe” for a hospital…don’t know whose idea all those footstools were. In past events, I have been known to haul all kinds of “real” things to the hospital, including catering a lunch in the intensive care waiting room with REAL soup bowls, spoons, etc, served out of a giant copper pot to anyone who was hungry. I figured these folks keeping vigil for direly sick loved ones could use some grounding…

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