Cigars & "Sabbath elevators"

John Taylor: July 01, 20131 Comments

It was a relic hospital in a crime- and poverty-ridden Brooklyn neighborhood. And it was where I took my first job after graduating college, opting to do "community relations" instead of doing public relations for General Foods in posh Westchester County.

I smoked cigars in the office. Most everyone smoked something. Back then, the Old World was still male dominated -- even by a young cub like me. The head of the medical staff, decidedly not young, insisted his face be in every photo possible in the newsletter. The hospital CEO lived in New Jersey, which did not endear him to the community -- whom he was trying to persuade to allow relocating the hospital into newer facilities along the Brooklyn waterfront.

My father had died in this hospital in a particularly bad patient-care experience. It didn't take long -- or too much of a raise -- for me to move to another job and to put miles and time away from my hospital interlude.

Which is why a smile grew wide across my face when I read that Lutheran Medical Center, a much-renewed version no doubt after 40 years, is drawing national accolades for setting the standard in delivering culturally competent care.

The hospital, according to Hospitals & Health Networks Magazine:

  • Has a "Sabbath elevator" that stops automatically at all six floors, allowing Orthodox Jews to avoid pressing electronic devices on the Sabbath.
  • Offers "modesty gowns" to Muslim women so they can avoid baring any skin.
  • Has an entire wing devoted to Chinese patients, where everyone speaks Chinese and understands the cultures.


The hospital was highlighted in a new report, "Becoming a Culturally Competent Health Care Organization," by the Health Research & Educational Trust.

The trust found that 81% of hospitals educate their clinical staff during orientation on cultural and linguistic factors affecting care, and 61% of hospitals require their employees to attend diversity training.

Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center and its longstanding cultural competency committee, in which I participate, has made huge strides in working to address the complex cultural needs of our diverse patient population.

As providers encourage the public to take more responsibility for their own health, it's crucual to bring best educational  practices to our unique communities.

And it's encouraging to me that, decades after having an unhappy rookie experiences in an inner city medical center, that both of us have come away wiser and (non-smoking) more committed to patient-centered care.

One response to Cigars & "Sabbath elevators"


I love the ideas listed in this article! I'm not of any particular religion or culture that has restrictions, however I have friends who are and it would be wonderful for our hospital to really take that extra step to make them feel comfortable. Little things like this wouldn't much effort but would mean the world to some.

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