Last night I enjoyed a pleasant visit to my local Jersey City emergency room courtesy of a sudden and acute allergic reaction of mysterious origin. One moment I was sitting on my bed watching TV, the next I was in an agony of itch, contorted with stabbing pains and puking on the kitchen floor. Hello, ambulance. Hello, hospital.
There's a lot of interesting things going on in an emergency room at 2 in the morning, as you may imagine. Like the guy in the next bed over who had been mugged for his Ipod up on Palisade Avenue, and was running on so much adrenaline he wouldn't stay put. He came over to my side of the curtain to congratulate me on not taking the anti-nausea shot the nurse wanted to give me, and then he asked if I thought that the lengthy razor slash down the side of his face looked "very bad". I told him that in my not-at-all-professional opinion that it looked ok, and that I didn't think it would need stitches. We were pretty simpatico after that. After getting a prescription for an emergency allergy shot, and drinking some vile green concoction, I was allowed to leave, giving my buddy in the next bed over a thumbs up on the way out.
The experience got me to thinking about entertainment options in the hospital. Sure, eavesdropping on the neighbors or chatting up ward mates is kind of fun, but besides that, it's pretty boring to sit in a bed for hours at a time waiting for someone to come poke you with a needle or to take your blood pressure. Hospitals in the UK look to make the time for their patients go faster with in-house radio or television stations. According to the Hospital Broadcasting Association, "There are hospital radio or television services in around 90% of hospitals in the UK."
Generally small volunteer-run operations, many of these radio stations have websites where patients or their friends can make requests, or you can see what might be playing at any given hour. From Wikipedia: "Most stations are on closed-loop wires and can only be heard inside the hospital wards on headphones or speakers next to the patient's bed. There are a few stations using AM or FM free-to-air transmission... some stations broadcast for only a few hours each week, with others using computer technology to provide their service 24 hours a day... Ward staff in many hospitals report that when a record request show is in progress, patients forget that they are ill for a couple of hours, while they enjoy listening to their choice of music and the choices of their fellow patients."
Here's a list of UK Hospital radio station websites you can check out, and one American hospital where the phenomenon's jumped shores. I've already requested that the Barnet Hospital station play "Itch and Scratch" by Rufus Thomas (hear it on Debbie's January 17, 2005 show here (2nd song)), for all the patients in the allergy ward.
Miami Children's Hospital (part of the Radio Lollipop Project started in the UK)