My Stint in an Italian Hospital

Hey there! I know I haven’t made another post since my first post but I’m backkk to tell you about my experience with the Italian healthcare system.

Last month I spent almost a week in the hospital. On Saturday Sept 17, I suddenly felt very ill, with no idea of the cause. I didn’t go to the hospital immediately because I hate hospitals and like to avoid them if I can, but also because I felt too sick to move. Eventually I contacted my programme director who advised me to contact the doctor that works with my programme. He advised me that it was probably best that I go to the Emergency Room which I did.

Fortunately, my programme had just held an health-related orientation with said doctor who had told us how to get to the E.R. if the need arose. Therefore, with those directions and the help of Google Maps, I was able to find it without getting lost. This experience definitely added a different perspective to my time here in Italy/Europe. Though I didn’t have “Be admitted to Italian hospital” on my study abroad bucketlist, it’s something I can now add and check off =| 🙂

Now I have very little experience with emergency rooms, fortunately. Besides this experience, I think I’ve only been to an E.R. once when I was much younger (1st or 2nd grade of primary school). I had walked/run into a staircase and had to get stitches and even the memory of that experience isn’t very clear. Although the doctor had told us how the emergency room worked, I was still a bit terrified because I would have to explain what had happened and my symptoms in Italian. Fortunately, I got through it and was assigned code verde (green).

In Italy and several other European countries, when someone arrives in the emergency room, they first go through an initial screening (triage) where they explain their symptoms and a nurse gets their vitals and other important information. Based on that information they are assigned a colour code which indicates the level of urgency. These codes are red, yellow, green and white (from most urgent to least). Red signifies life-threatening conditions that need immediate attention and yellow signifies potentially life-threatening conditions, that urgently require treatment. Green represents minor injuries/illnesses that aren’t very critical and can wait before receiving medical attention while white is used for patients in stable, non-urgent condition (information taken from this blog). Then the doctors see all the patients with code red then move on to yellow, then green and eventually white. If a patient is assigned code yellow for example and someone arrives before they are seen and is then assigned code red, then that second patient will be seen before the code yellow patient.

“In Italia e in alcuni altri paesi europei, quando uno arriva al pronto soccorso, deve passare un controllo iniziale (che si chiama “triage”) dove descrive i suoi sintomi e un’infermiera controlla i suoi segni vitali e prende delle altre informazioni importanti. Alla base di queste informazioni, al paziente viene assegnato un codice colore il quale indica il livello d’urgenza. Questi codici sono: il rosso, il giallo, il verde e il bianco (dal più urgente al meno). Il rosso significa una malattia mortale che richiede un’attenzione immediata e il giallo significa le condizioni serie che hanno bisogno di un trattamento urgente. Il verde rappresenta le lesioni o le malattie minori che non sono molto critiche e che possono aspettare prima di ricevere l’attenzione medica. Il bianco è usato per i pazienti nella condizione stabile e non urgente. I medici vedono in ordine i pazienti con il colore rosso, poi il giallo, il verde e alla fine il bianco. Per esempio, se un paziente è assegnato il codice giallo e qualcuno arriva dopo di lui o lei ed è assegnato il codice rosso, questo secondo paziente sarà visto prima del paziente con il codice giallo.”

So as I said, I was assigned codice verde and I ended waiting about 5 hours to be seen. I’m not going to sit here an type about how being in the hospital reminded me how short life is and I should live it to the fullest, etc. It didn’t. I already acknowledge how short life is and try to enjoy it as much as I can. But what being in the ER did do was put my pain/illness into perspective. It can be quite frustrating to have to sit and wait for hours to be seen by a doctor, because your emergency is all you are aware of and honestly you could just be impatient like me. However, as I sat there waiting, I realized that to me, my emergency was the greatest emergency in the room but it really wasn’t. There might have been people who might actually have died if they weren’t seen right away and so I became a secondary (or tertiary) emergency.

Being in the ER in Italy (and probably any ER, as I said I have little experience) requires not just patience but understanding that although in your world, you’re the star/centre of everything, there is so much more happening around you of which you may not be aware. Sometimes that’s just something you have to accept.

With that said, I hope to not have to go to the hospital (esp. the ER) again during my time here (and for the rest of my life?? ;)). As my friends have repeatedly said so far, my misadventures on public transportation are enough (I’ve missed a lot of trains since being here). The hospital isn’t an experience I need to have again. Speaking of friends, I just want to take the time out to thank everyone who checked-in with me and tried to keep my in good spirit during my hospital stint, especially one friend who stayed with my from the time I got to the hospital (at 8pm Saturday night) to about 5am the following morning when they asked me to stay so that they could keep an eye on me.

Sending love and posiivity and wishing you all good health!
Juleen 🙂

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