Human Behaviors in a Real-Life Setting

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Observing Human Behavior in a Hospital Emergency Room (Figure 1.1: Hospital waiting room)


November 28, 2017: Putting the finishing touches on the observation plan and materials.

The material day is November 29, 2017.

4: 30- Arrived at the hospital and took a walk around to determine the best spot for the observation.

The observation begins at 5:30 p.m.

6: 30 Observation concludes

November 30, 2017: Compilation and analysis of observations; report writing

The report will be presented on November 31, 2017.

Field notes in their natural state

At 5: 30 p.m., people are sitting in the waiting area, awaiting the arrival of the doctors and patients.

 The room has men, women, and children but the men are few.

 Children are crying as most adults seem gloomy.

Charts on diseases and infections can be seen on the wall.

There is a television to entertain the guests, but most people seem uninterested.

A black family enters the room consisting of a father, mother, and daughter, and unlike others in the room, this family is very cheerful.

The child seems playful and at one point she is ordered by the father to sit upright; the child obeys and seems afraid of the father,

The child appears relaxed when the father leaves the room.

Various hospital personnel among them nurses and interns are seen talking to the patients; they all appear cheerful.

Some section of the patients complain about the lowliness of the process; for them, the queue is not moving. Generally, the mood in the room is somber.

The exercise is timing consuming and observing the behaviors of the people in the waiting room needs a lot of patience. Most individuals spent less time in the waiting room, and this is why it is difficult to observe their behaviors fully. Also, there is the possibility of behavior alteration when people realize that they are being observed and therefore, a lot of care had to be done to ensure they do not realize this development. Moreover, avoiding experimental bias especially when observing the black family is difficult. There is the need to remain objective and prevent personal predisposition from clouding one's judgment.


The purpose of this observation was to provide a cursory look at the means by which observation is accomplished, and it involved observing the behaviors of people in a hospital setting. Specifically, the hospital waiting room where different kinds of people pass was chosen as an ideal place. The one-hour observation happened on November 29, 2017, between 5: 30 pm and 6: 30 pm.

On entering the room, people, both adult and children, were seated on the chairs and seemed unconcerned with each other. Some noise was heard and mostly coming from children. It was noted that children dread visiting the hospital as they see it as a place where painful injections are done and where sick people can be found. Most of the observed children believe the hospital is a place of bad smell and most of them complained bitterly about it. To most of them, the hospital is not a cheerful place at all, and most of them were seen crying as parents or adults they were with try to comfort them. Although the many toys present in the waiting room is a huge relief to the children in such a somber environment, many of them hardly used them. Some could even cry at the sight of the nurse. Also, most of the children seemed withdrawn, and this can be attributed to the many numbers of strangers they were meeting in the waiting room, unlike the familiar faces they encounter at home.

The room had medical personnel who were mostly the nurses and interns. Most of them were quite friendly to the patients, and particularly, there was one nurse who came over and encouraged one child who was crying to stop crying. All over a saddened, the child stopped crying, felt loved, cherished and felt comfortable after the encouragement. Mounted on the wall is a television with gospel songs meant to encourage the patients and those waiting for the patients that it shall be well. However, the majority of the sick paid little or no attention to the television; it was only those who had come along with them that paid the most attention.

Some patients seemed impatient and thought that the medics were taking too long to tend to the patients and even some complained to one of the interns how slow they were. But the intern, who was a female, smiled back at the furious male patient and responded that the process was not slow, on Wednesdays the hospital normally have high numbers of patients. And also, it is the day when mothers come for clinic checkup, and this can explain why there were more women and children than men.

Perhaps the most important observation happened when an African-American family entered the room. It was 6 pm, and the hospital had a sizable number of people to attend to them. A young girl approximately ten years, wearing a blue shirt and a black skirt entered the room and sat in one of the corners. As the observation continues, the mother and the father begin conversing in low tones while looking at each other. As the girl observes the hospital environment keenly, often turning the chair to look around the room. The father motions for the boy to sit down and the girl looks at the mother before sitting down. However, the girl starts looking around moments later, as the father and mother deeply engage in the conversation. The attention of the mother drifts back and forth from the girl to the father before stroking the head of the girl to stop smiling at the woman who was breastfeeding in the opposite corner. Unlike other children, the girl was strangely cheerful and playful.

After sometimes the father leaves the room and the girl is left with the mother. The girl leans fondly on the mother and starts speaking while motioning to the mother how some children were crying. Often, the girl raises some fingers pointing to the crying children but the mother holds the hand down. The mother whispers something in the ear of the daughter while shaking her left ear. Immediately after the father returns, the moods become tenser as the girl struggles to sit upright. Seemingly, the child appears to have a closer relationship with the mother than the father and this was seen in how relaxed the child was when the father left. The father seems to be a disciplinarian, and this was evident in the way the girl responded swiftly the moment the father entered the room. The family appears to be a decent family that is keen on installing morals in the girl. The father is a darling of direct correcting as evident in the way he signaled the girl to sit upright.

Clearly, the family was different. Although the girl was sick, she was cheerful and playful unlike other children, and her perception about the hospital setting seemed different from others. Children often see injection as a horrible thing, and the very idea of visiting the hospital where injections are done makes them feel scared and sad. To make the child visit the place easily; it is important for parents to prepare their children psychologically, and the girl seems well prepared. Perrin (2014) notes that with necessary assurance from parents, the child is likely to approach the place courageously and this is perhaps what the Black family had done. The hospital personnel also need to be cheerful to relax the children.

Besides, her parents seemed different. Unlike other patients or parents with sick children, this couple was cheerful and was seen laughing and conversing in low tones. They were even seen discussing and arguing about information on hygiene and diseases contained on the charts hanged on the wall. Other people seemed gloomy as they wait for the patients or for their turn to see the doctor. The hospital has charts and diseases everywhere, and this is meant to educate the people in the waiting room on ways to avoid certain diseases or infections. But generally it was a nice experience with lots of things to learn.


Perrin, E. C., Sheldrick, R. C., McMenamy, J. M., Henson, B. S., & Carter, A. S. (2014). Improving parenting skills for families of young children in pediatric settings: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(1), 16-24.

April 26, 2023


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