Letter from the Editor

Hospitals Could Learn From a Few Enlightened Traffic Control Aides

Bradley P. Knight, MD, FACC, FHRS, Editor-in-Chief

Bradley P. Knight, MD, FACC, FHRS, Editor-in-Chief

Every morning, there are traffic control aides stationed at busy intersections outside the hospital. They manage traffic and keep intersections clear as hospital employees and patients drive through snarled downtown traffic toward the parking garages, and as pedestrians make their way to the hospitals and clinics.

At a particularly busy intersection outside our hospital, there is a traffic signal that clearly states “Left on Green Arrow Only”.

Most traffic aides see their role as enforcers of these clearly marked signs and bright traffic signals. They use multiple hand signals and bodily contortions to communicate to the drivers listening to morning radio and drinking coffee. When there is no green arrow displayed, they will reprimand any driver with a blinking left-hand turn signal who approaches this intersection too closely, and keep you from even getting close to that solid crosswalk line. They will sometimes even look you directly in the eye and motion toward the signs to make their point clear. This is the mindset of most hospital employees and administrators. They view their role as enforcers of compliance with policies, procedures, rules, and regulations. They take pride in 100% compliance with badge-displaying policies and other rules that are simple to enforce.

Then there are the other traffic control aides — the enlightened ones. When they see you approaching that same intersection with your left-hand turn signal flashing, they handle it completely differently. They look around, and sometimes they recognize that there are actually no other cars or pedestrians for blocks. They recognize that they can and should use their judgment and experience to override a traffic signal that has no way of knowing if anyone else is nearby; they view their job as facilitators, to improve traffic flow beyond what the traffic signals can do. That is why they are there — to improve the safety and efficiency of the drivers. These aides will then actually encourage you to make that left turn as they carefully guide you with their enlightened orange baton, hand motions, and a good morning smile. These are the traffic aides who realize that they are there for a reason beyond pointing to the traffic signals and yelling at the drivers. They are there to help … and they are the ones who seem to like their job. It would be great if we could have more people like them inside the hospital.