About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Hospital workers: Fix us on the first try and, please, smile while you’re at it

Spotsylvania Regional at sunset.

I wasn’t surprised at reader reaction to last week’s news that Spotsylvania Regional scored better than Mary Washington and Stafford hospitals in Medicare’s latest patient-satisfaction survey.

The reactions were similar to what I’d heard before and seemed to fall into one of three categories:

* One group said that Spotsylvania Regional’s scores made sense, that they were pleased with the care they got there. “I had one baby at MWH and one at SRMC, and hands down Spotsy was the winner,” one person wrote on’s  Facebook page.

* Another group said they were fans of MWH. “Will always go to Mary Washington,” said one person.

* A third group said, in effect, a pox on both your houses. “They are both horrible,” wrote one man. “I’ve been to both.”

The comments reminded me of the time I was talking to someone who was upset after going to Spotsylvania Regional’s emergency room. The person was bitter about the long wait and the perceived indifference of the staff. It was the kind of complaint I’d heard many times about Mary Washington’s ER. Yet, at that point, Spotsylvania Regional had been open only a few months.

“Wow, that didn’t take long,” I thought. “The bloom is off the rose already.”

What I decided after hearing complaints like these is that working at a hospital is a very tough job. We ask a lot of hospital workers: We want them to cure us when we’re sick and fix us when we’re broken. We expect them to get it right on the first try, and we want them to be quick about it. And, please, we don’t feel well, so show a little tenderness.

It’s not an impossible task, but it is a hard one. I have sympathy for those who do it and admiration for those who do it well.

(The original post about the patient-satisfaction results is here.)