Sociology 101 methodology paper

Sociology 101 methodology paper - Social Norms in The...

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Social Norms in The Emergency Room Waiting Area 5/7/2013 Sociology 101 1
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We have all learned how we ought to act while out in public. Well, maybe not all of us, but for most we have learned the social norms that guide our behavior in certain situations. Social norms represent the precedent for the proper way to behave (Martin 1964). The institution of healthcare, specifically the emergency room waiting area, has a set of standard behaviors that I set out to study. These behaviors that people exhibit while in the ER waiting area are interesting to study. It’s important for our society to understand how we act and why we act that way under different circumstances. Studying social norms is sociologically important because it helps us answer questions about our behavior, but also there is untapped research about how and why our society creates these norms (Chai 2004). I believe it’s important to be aware of the social norms in the emergency room waiting area because it is largely a place of unhappy behaviors. With a better understanding of behavior in that setting, our society could potentially alter the norms slightly and increase patient optimism. An example of a norm in this setting that I think promotes unhappy behavior is respecting privacy. We need privacy, but it can lead to an environment with no conversation at all. Based on what I observed in the waiting room, short dialogue between people who can relate to each other can be a great thing for their state of mind. If our society could somehow create a norm where reaching out to others in the ER waiting area was associated with helping behavior, more people might engage with each other (Harvey and Enzle 1981). METHODS I made observations at the Tacoma General Hospital located near the Hilltop in downtown Tacoma, WA. From the moment I set foot on the hospital’s grounds I could tell this was going to be an interesting study. After parking, I walked aimlessly for five minutes looking for the main entrance to the ER until I ran into a middle-aged Hispanic man who told me I was 2
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still ten minutes away. He let me in through a back entrance and pointed me to the emergency room. I walked through the main area where patients were in their rooms and passed a group of doctors who didn’t seem very busy. The doctors’ chatter was like a whisper and it wasn’t until then that I realized how quiet it was in the building. I arrived at the waiting area, which had ten- foot high barriers around for privacy, and before I entered I glanced over at the main entrance to the ER that I was searching for initially. There were two police officers on duty monitoring the entrance. Neither the officers, nor any of the doctors and nurses working seemed to pay any mind to the fact that I had just come through the patient area. I entered the waiting area and discreetly sat in back of the room, so I had a view of everyone. I took down notes on my cell phone instead of writing them because I didn’t want people to wonder what I was doing. If the Hawthorne effect came into play, my observations would have been jeopardized. The Hawthorne effect is
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