Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The craziness continues...

My last post about the flaws of the Greek healthcare system led to unexpected comments and conclusions: That public healthcare really sucks, and that the American system had better remain unchanged.

Don't get me wrong, I am by no means familiar with the American system (I've heard and read a lot, but didn't experience it myself), so I am not the one to say if it should be changed and how. But, at least as far as my own country is concerned, I am and have always been an avid supporter of public healthcare. Maybe in a future post we'll discuss about how this could work and benefit both patients and hospital employees. It may seem unreal and idealistic, but I think it could be done - if only someone was really willing to change the current horrible situation.

But before we talk about changes, it is important to describe what is really happening right now. So, our journey to The Twilight Zone featuring Greek hospitals continues...

If you think that winning the lottery is impossible, try finding a nurse in the Emergency department.

This is the second time I am writing about nurses, and taking in mind that the first time I was disagreeing with the fact that doctors and nurses are paid the same, while they don't work for the same hours and don't share the same responsibilities, you have every right to be suspicious of me. Maybe, like most doctors, I am suffering from "superiority/God complex", shunning nurses and flattering myself that I am much, much better.

Uh, I don't think so.

Because, let's face it - I am not. After all, I am just a clumsy Medical school graduate, still shaking when stitching (alert: This is NOT pleasant to watch - let alone experience!), almost pooping myself when an emergency comes in and I am alone in the room, even for a few minutes, while having no clue about most of the questions patients ask ("Will I get better?", "Is it too bad to eat half a roast lamb while suffering from gastric ulcer?", "Will the guys from Lost ever get out of this f-ing island for good?" - no sorry, the last one is a question I ask myself all the time, and not the patients!)

So yeah, I am not better, and I know it. The nurses know it. The whole hospital knows it. But it's ok. Because I'm not supposed to know everything right away. But please, dear nurse looking at me with a scornful look, help me. Teach me. Don't scowl at me in front of the (terrified) patient. And most importantly, don't leave me alone when I need you the most.

For some weird reason, becoming a doctor in Greece is much too popular than becoming a nurse. As a result, for every 5 doctors that beg for a job, there is only one nurse, who is always in high demand. And also for some curious reason, there are never enough nurses in the Greek hospitals. So, in order to deal with that, we have come up with the model of "Beaming-up-Nurse 3000", a special-patented nurse that manages to move from one clinic to another in seconds.

Or at least, she is supposed to. Because the nurses working in hospitals, compared to those that are actually needed to meet the needs, are much much less. As a result, the same nurse is supposed to cover the surgical department, while performing patch tests at the dermatology clinic, and measuring glucose levels in diabetic patients. All these cannot possibly be done at the same time.

The result? Huge lines of patients complaining about the long wait, doctors carrying samples to the labs, because there is no one else to take them down there, patients' relatives making the patients' beds and carrying them to the X-ray department themselves, students left alone to deal with life-threatening situations simply because there is no one else at the ER at that moment. It is CRAZY in there!

So no, I don't hate nurses. In fact, I love them dearly. So much, that I would like to have as many of them as possible. Please god, give me nurses. Because a good nurse can always save the day (and my own a$$ as well)...


  1. Long lines. Rationed health care. Some uneducated beaurocrat determining what the best course of medical treatment will be allowed. Nah...I don't want any part of it! I'm sorry you are having difficulties. You are right...nurses are extremely important and can make a doctor's life comfortable or a living hell. I just cannot imagine working in conditions you have to work in. God bless you, Gracey. It will get easier, especially as you become more comfortable with your patient assessment skills.

  2. Wow. I'm surprised so many people opt for the doctor route if nurses earn the same. In the US the money doctors earn is the big draw. This all just sounds terrible. But I hope with time as you grow more confident and experienced you'll be able to develop a better working relationship with these nurses. Early days are always difficult.

  3. Nurses are always in very high demand in the US. There's always a shortage, and while they get paid well, the doctors always make more.

  4. You gave us the reason two posts ago why there are not enough nurses... Greek parents have too much pride in their kids and will not let their kids take a job that is "beneath" them; therefore there are tons of doctors and lawyers and not enough plumbers, electricians, and... nurses! LOL
    It is a shame the nurses will not help a student doctor, I am sure you would appreciate any lessons you learn. Doctors should earn more than nurses, especially if it is based on hours worked and, more important, years spent training in school.
    Obviously, a free healthcare system does not work if the government providing it does not pay the doctors. Here we "trust" insurance companies to pay doctors, which is as big of a joke as "trusting" the government to do it. :)

  5. Another great post, Gracey! It sounds like your job is made twice as hard by the lack of nurses. It seems to be the reverse here. You'll see ten nurses in the hospital, but no one can seem to find your doctor.

  6. There have been times here, when I have taken my kids to the ER and I will see 5 different nurses, and then the DR pops in for a quick min. And that's it. Crazy how different things are.

  7. as a nurse myself, I have to ass that you are totally right. ;)

  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog... I've really enjoyed reading yours this morning! :) I love hearing your perspective on this obviously controversial issue.