Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Waiting room 


Family members’ lives may be significantly impacted by their loved one’s illness. They need our comfort and support as well. 

Pillow fort in the waiting room 

Sprawled over lime green couches 

Laughing as a little one topples over the armchair 

Safely onto a folded sweatshirt landing below 

Muffling their giddy shrieks as they see our hurried processional pass by 

At once solemn 

Hushed by the clack of heels and foreign whispering of white coats 

Clipboard in my hand 

They are still 

Almost reverent 

As if we hold the secrets 

To unlock the universe 

The little one ducks at my smile 

Peeping out shyly behind the shield of her orange pillow 

Wearing the same clothes as yesterday 

And the day before 

In this unholy campground 

Where the mornings and afternoons blend together 

They are caught in a moment of innocence 

Haphazardly tucking in the corners of their Monday   

So deeply personal 

That I feel I have stumbled into a door cracked open 

To a suburban household 

Harshened by the incessant beep of pagers 

Each one flinching at the hope and fear of impending news 

That will fracture or complete their family 

We are passed 

And they return to their afternoon ritual 

Leaping from one tattered couch to another 

The gaping glass windows 

Once again pouring in light 

Making a hospital waiting room into a home 


This poem was inspired by a moment I had in the hospital when I passed a family that had been in the waiting room for a few days. I was struck by how they had created pockets of joy and youthful abandon during a difficult and scary time. It felt like an intimate moment that I was privileged to see. 


It was an important reminder for me, and for other healthcare professionals, that it’s not just our patients we care for, but their loved ones who sometimes must make a temporary home in the hospital. We must also remember that they may need support, love, and comfort in what can otherwise be a sterile and impersonal space. 









This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.