I had to undergo a minor surgery in Germany, which required a hospital stay. Previously, my only experience in any sort of German hospital was delivering Willem and Pieter so this was a bit different. I figure since I'm still in hospital and looking for things to keep me occupied, I'll share some of my insights on the differences between German and U.S. hospitals (at least from MY experience).
First off, my surgery was scheduled for Thursday morning but I was told to arrive a whole day early to check-in. Can you imagine that? I had nearly 24 hours to hang around in my hospital room BEFORE surgery. Not sure if that was a good thing for me, since it only gave me more time to stress. But it was good to already be here and settled the night before, as my surgery was scheduled for 7:30 the next morning. I requested a private room because I have small kids who will visit and bother any person sharing a room with me. Last thing I wanted to do was irritate some old Bavarian woman and get the stink eye.
So basically, the room is what you'd expect in the U.S. with a few subtle differences. First off, there are no privacy curtains around the beds. Germans aren't as "private" as we are in the U.S. Second (and I wish I had thought of this before arriving), I really should have brought my own towel for showering. Now, I understand this varies hospital to hospital but I had to request some towels and was only given a couple hand towels so I do believe the expectation was that I would bring my own.
The clinic I am in is relatively small, but that is not necessarily uncommon in Bavaria. While there are large hospitals, it is not uncommon to find many smaller specialization clinics. The hospital where I gave birth to Willem and Pieter was a small clinic specializing in women's health issues. And the clinic I am now in is even smaller- about 64 beds in all. This is quite small by U.S. standards. I actually do appreciate that about being here. So far, for the most part (noting some minor exceptions) I have received very personalized care by both nurses and midwives here. The clinics are smaller and therefore the staff is smaller and closer. It provides for a more comfortable feeling, which for me is always good. Though I can't say for certain, I would also imagine that the rate of cross-contamination is lower in these smaller clinics, which can be a problem in big U.S. hospitals.
Noting that Bavaria is also a very Catholic state, it is not surprising that I am in a Catholic clinic- in that it is run in conjunction with the Sisters of Mercy. This Order of nuns have devoted their lives to helping poor and sick people. In this clinic, both secular nurses and nuns work together tending to the patients. I've grown used to the fact that there are crucifixes all over Bavaria, in many public places, but I have to say it still is a bit creepy to see a crucifix above my hospital bed.
The next noticeable difference is the length of stay in a German hospital. In the U.S. the surgery I just had has a typical hospital stay of two days. I was told to expect a six day hospital stay. I'm not sure how I feel about this, just yet, but on the whole I think the possibility of staying longer is always good. My experience in the U.S. is that you get kicked out pretty quickly because your insurance won't pay, otherwise. Here, it is not uncommon for women to stay in the hospital up to a week after a normal vaginal delivery of their babies. Contrast THAT to the U.S., where they all but force you out after two days.
I've been here three years now and I still have difficulty getting used to the meals. Germans typically follow the big meal at midday with smaller meals at breakfast and dinner, and while healthier, my body definitely isn't used to it. I am awakened by hospital staff around 6:30 a.m. (remember I'm in a Catholic hospital so they've already been up for ages for Morning Mass). Breakfast (crusty roll, butter, slice of cheese or meat, and coffee) is a around 7:30, a big hot lunch at 11:30, coffee or tea at 12:30 and then dinner (more crusty roll and cheese) at 5pm. The big meal in the middle of the day thing is good and all but I'm not used to it, which means I'm super hungry at 8pm. Fortunately, I anticipated this and brought a few things from home- instant soup packets and lots of still water (all the water they serve here is bubbly).
The doctors here are quite competent and most speak decent English (whether they actually WANT to use it with you is a totally different story). They do tend to suffer from God-like complexes, though, and do not like to be questioned. (If you know me, then you know that for most doctors I am the thorn in their side with my incessant questions.) It puts me at ease to know what is happening and be informed. This is contrary to the German way of doing things, as many people here just simply accept anything that someone in a position of authority states. Not only that, but they seem to not ask for further clarification. When a doctor comes in and routinely asks you, "So do you have any questions for me?" and starts to walk out before I even have time to answer, you know they aren't used to any actual questions. And with me- they usually get the Spanish Inquisition- not a debate over WHAT they are doing, but an explanation of it. Anyhow, this torques some doctors here, but I guess that the God-Complex is found in all countries. And their bed-side manner... well hit or miss there, but typically... not what we Americans are used to... much colder. Though, that's probably a whole new post in and of itself.
In Germany, doctors wield a lot of power and are well-respected. It is not easy for any Joe Shmoe to get a medical license here. Things appear much more regulated. There is high respect for "titles" given in Germany and "titles" aren't given out lightly. Case in point- There is technically still a law (though rarely enforced) in Germany that states that anyone who did not receive their PhD in Germany cannot refer to themselves as "Doctor" in Germany. Though rarely enforced, this did prove problematic for some PhD working at a renowned scientific organization here, as he was fined over it. I presume someone lower than this PhD felt he was somehow lording his title over their head, and as a result he was reported. As he indeed did not obtain his PhD in Germany, he was fined.
My stay here has been okay, except that I feel bad for my kids. The last two nights they have been quite upset when they left, and Gerrit even almost cried on the phone with me before bed. I am hoping they will let me out today, but it is Sunday, and I have been told Sunday is not a typical "discharge" day. A nice little nun did come to my room earlier, though, and invite me to attend mass with her in the hospital chapel.
It is interesting being cared for by both nuns and nurses. That is quite different. There is a sort of holistic care happening here than I have experienced otherwise. Though, admittedly, I am probably one of the only people at this hospital that is not Catholic. Some of the nurses speak a tiny bit of English but most of the nuns are quite older and do not speak any English, but we seem to be managing quite fine with my poor German. Knowing at least some German creates a bit more of a comfortable feeling for me than I had giving birth to Willem in the hospital three years ago. I do not have as much "angst" as the Germans say.
Righty-oh, well... contrary to all the German regulations and being told last night that I was likely NOT leaving today, they are in fact going to discharge me today (with the understanding that I must come back Tuesday afternoon to speak with the doctor once my pathology results are in). Woo Hoo! That means I get to go spend the day with my family and celebrate Willem's birthday. I'm quite excited! Will gather my things and scamper out the door... hopefully before another lovely German hospital meal comes my way. :)