Activity 3: Map and Analyze the Waiting Area




Draw a map of the waiting area at your shadowing site. Note the architectural elements, furniture, placement and movement of people, and individual and group behaviors.


-       Students will analyze how architecture influences health care interactions

-       Students will identify and analyze the symbolic implications of spatial arrangements (of furniture, people, etc)

-       Students will analyze the functionality of interior design for different groups (e.g. physicians, nurses, patients, disabled persons, children)


Rosemary Gillespie, “Architecture and Power: A Family Planning Clinic as a Case Study,” Health & Place 8, no. 3 (2002), 211-220.

Recommended Preparatory Reading:

Paula Braverman and Laura Gottlieb, "The Social Determinants of Health: It's Time to Consider the Causes of the Causes" Public Health Reports 129, Supp 2 (2014), 19-31.

Time Commitment: 

About half an hour.

Appropriate For: 

advanced undergraduate students; undergraduate medical students; graduate students in the health professions.

Activity Description:

Arrive at your shadowing site. Take a seat in the waiting room and spend 10-15 minutes mapping the space:

 1) Draw the architectural elements (doors, windows, pillars, etc.), furniture, and decor. Note qualitative features of these elements as well (does the carpet look new? Are the windows clean or dirty? What does the art on the walls look like?)

2) Draw the people in the space. For 10 minutes, note their appearance, movement (you can do this by drawing arrows) and behavior during the time period (you can do this by annotating the figures—for example: “man in blue shirt- 3:03-3:06 pm- reading quietly”)

3) Once you have finished observing, take a few moments to reflect on the following questions:

- How does the waiting area environment reflect the type of health care (patient population served; primary vs. specialty care; acute vs chronic conditions; etc) delivered at your shadowing site? In what ways might the waiting area environment shape the care delivered at your shadowing site?

- Did you observe any behavioral patterns among the people in the waiting room? How does the environment appear to influence behavior, emotion, and interaction?

4)  Drawing on your field notes from this activity and additional experiences during this shadowing site visit, write a blog post or short reflection essay.


Image: Norman Rockwell, The Waiting Room  (1937) []