Last weekend, my husband, son and I decided to try out a local escape room as a fun family activity. We had a blast, did not make it out in time, but enjoyed the experience. Afterward, I immediately began to think of the analogies of this escape room and how we feel many times inside the medical system.
Upon arrival, we were directed to the first of three rooms that we were tasked with completing. In the first room, we were told that we could use three opportunities to ask for clues, but otherwise we were on our own. The first room looked very nondescript. On the walls were various pictures of US presidents, in the corner was a coat, and against the wall was a piece of furniture with one drawer. There were no written clues as to the order we should move in or where to begin first. The complexity increased with each room we accessed.
I see many parallels between this and our broken healthcare system, which I will lay out here:
1) This simply cannot be executed effectively or efficiently alone. Without our team of three, and preferably more, it would be have become overwhelming and elicited anxiety. The ability of the team to brainstorm and think rationally through the process was imperative to our success. Much like the medical system, navigating it alone during a time of stress and vulnerability will usually result in overwhelm, fear, and likely errors along the way. You need a cohesive medical team as well as support team on your side.
2) Ignorance is not bliss. We had never participated in an activity like this before and we were not well versed in the logistics. Without experience, we felt a bit like fish out of water in the first room. Much like we may feel when entering a medical system with a sudden diagnosis, we felt the sting of simply not knowing. Not knowing where to begin, not understanding what the clues meant, and not having experience to guide us along the way. At times, it may seem like not knowing removes the responsibility of acting upon that knowing. However, the truth is that not knowing is just that-not knowing, understanding or being able to process what is actually happening. There is no bliss in that, I can assure you.
3) While help is available, you are largely on your own. Yes, we were able to ask for 3 clues. But the people who knew how to help us were not with us at every step and turn. They were only there for short moments of time to give us small clues along our journey. Much like our medical team is available to give us help along the way, they are not always there. Most of the journey is up to us to figure out. If we would have negated our ability to independently figure clues out and relied solely on those who knew more, we would have received our three clues and ceased any forward momentum. But we understood that most of this process was our responsibility, as was the decision on when to ask for clues and what clues to seek. In the medical system, it is imperative that we understand the role of the medical team as well as the role of the individual. While you are not alone, it is important that you take an active role in your healthcare and pay attention to the clues surrounding you, both internally as symptoms and externally as sources of helpful information vs potential errors.
4) Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight is where the gold is. When time ran out and we were told the steps we missed, it all made sense and we couldn't believe we missed them. Much like our healthcare journey, we often look back and see so clearly what was missed. However, the wisdom of having the foresight to actively seek opportunities that may be missed will always be more effective than relying on hindsight.
Your healthcare journey may look and feel like an escape room, but with the right team in place that carries the necessary knowledge and experience, navigating it will not only be possible, but peaceful.