The Waiting Room: Mitch’s View

By Mitch Houlahan

The Waiting Room is an intimate exposure of the personal battles occurring within the walls of Highland County hospital, peering into the lives of people who often need public healthcare to survive. I’m sure anyone can recall the emotions which can emerge in any type of public waiting room; although the difference between renewing a driver’s licence and refilling a child’s prescription is fairly obvious. The Waiting Room has taken on a difficult task of expressing the daily routine and atmosphere of an extremely busy public hospital where the majority of patients are uninsured.

The Waiting Room is not a film in isolation. It is part of a comprehensive Storytelling Project that connects the audience on a personal level, to make us feel closer to the person who must navigate through the public healthcare system for themselves and their family. It is very likely that the majority of viewers (including myself) will be unable to relate to the experiences shown in the film; but the value of the film will be measured in the awareness it stands to generate. Filmmaker Pete Nicks gives the prominent role to the voice of the patient – it couldn’t get much more firsthand than The Waiting Room.

The Storytelling Project gives us a preview of many of the film’s individual stories and a background to understanding the film’s effort. The project delivers content across several different platforms including the film; a web component that shares cultural data and cross media material generated by staff and volunteers; a mobile application; and an interactive platform accessible to patients in the waiting room of Highland Hospital. The objective of all of this programming is to give “hospitals, policy makers, journalists and the general public a greater understanding of the evolving relationship between public policy and people’s lives.”

The beauty of The Waiting Room is that the patient voice is clearly heard, but not without the equally important views of the doctors, nurses and hospital staff. A real sense of an interconnected community is depicted by these stories. The hardships and struggles that we are learning about are not isolated; they are a part of something much larger and more difficult to comprehend. I think if there is any chance of improving the imperfections of public health care, it makes sense to have a balanced understanding of the opinions of employees who deliver care and the patients who rely on it. The Waiting Room has provided a structure for this understanding of opinion with its storytelling project. The weight and usefulness of this initiative now depends on the willingness of the viewers to understand the voices which have been given a platform to be heard. Editor’s Note: Mitch Houlahan is our Associate Story Editor and has put together our feature on the “Waiting Room”. Mitch brings some interesting perspectives to the project, among which are his youthfulness, his political science education and his medical system interactions as a result of serious sports related injuries. Compared to a much different Canadian health care system, the realities around a US public hospital have been a real eye opener.


  • Stories from The Waiting Room