The Italian Hospital Experience

Now that I’ve fully recovered from an entire three weeks of illness, I’m ready to blog about my hospital experience.


Let me first say I’m not a fan of hospitals to begin with. I mean who is? Really? Now, I’m a little crunchy, but my no means do I dislike modern medicine.  I love Target clinics with all my heart. How glorious they are. And I’d have given anything to cruise those isles with a red cart while waiting for my diagnosis and prescription to be filled.

A little background about why a hospital was needed in the first place…I am not a legal citizen yet. I have not been given residency and do not have a doctor assigned.  Yes, assigned is what the deal will be for our family. Thank you socialized medicine.

So I’d been plagued with a sore throat and nasty white patches on the tonsils for a solid week and a quick three day round of antibiotics (from a doctor friend – ptl)  didn’t do much or me. Finally a day of relief. I could swallow without pain!

Then I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. And I was peeing all. the. time. and had back aches. I knew it was time to get checked out. I wasn’t going to mess with a kidney infection or uti.

The first impression of the hospital was a good one. Not too crowded. A nice young lady took our info and spoke to me in English about Minnesota. The screen in the waiting room told us how long we’d been waiting and what our order was. Great customer service.

Then we went through the doors to the exam area.

All customer service out the window.

A large, stern woman sat behind a desk while a meek intern sat on a stool beside/behind her. She began asking questions right away. Nick is translating. I’m trying to answer, but I didn’t know what to do. There was a chair at the desk, but there was also a bed. Do I sit in the chair? Lie on the bed? What about my coat and purse? SOMEONE GIVE ME SOME DIRECTION!

After deciding to put my coat and purse on the chair and just stand, I answered their questions about symptoms and temperature. “101 is not a temperature” the lady barked (in Italian of course). Right – convert to celsius on the phone.

Then was told to pee in a cup. In broken English the nurse gives me instructions. “Open. Pipi (points inside). Close. Toilet (points down the hall)” They don’t say urine here. To hear them keep saying peepee made me giggle.

I come back with the pee and was told to sit on the bed. THANK YOU! DIRECTIONS!

I’m sitting on the edge facing Nick when BAM! The doctor is conducting a surprise attack on my kidneys. WHAT?! BAM! she thumps me on the other side. Um, ok. Apparently she’s trying to see what side hurts the most. They hurt exactly the same every time, but I said the left to make it stop.

Lie down they tell me. Blood drawn.

Lights go out. Ultrasound.

Ok. Go wait out there for the results. It could take a couple hours.

What the heck just happened? I still have ultrasound goop on me. Is someone going to help with this? (eventually a nurse did)

Other than taking my fever, no vitals were checked. What about my heart? Lungs? Stuffy nose? The sore throat I’ve had for a week?

We sat in a waiting area without that nice little order of service screen for two hours.


My pain meds wore off. I still had the blood sample needle in my arm. I played the whirlwind of an exam in my head over and over. I worried I’d dragged us all to the hospital for nothing. What would they find?

UTI. Took my first dose of antibiotic and was sent on my way.

The next day I was starting to feel so much better.

And then I woke up feeling like that truck showed up again. World’s worst headache. Ears ringing and buzzing. Fever back up. Exhausted.

Now that Nick and Lana have both had similar symptoms to that third round of sickness, we’ve realized we were given the gift of influenza. Perhaps from the hospital?

I have worked in a college and around little kids for YEARS and never had the flu like this. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had the flu.

It sucks.

Anyway, to summarize…I’ve decided Italian hospitals are like American post offices. No one really wants to work there. It’s a government job, so everyone’s disgruntled. There aren’t other hospitals to compete with, so why bother with customer service?

The inefficiency of the billing process is also typical of all things Italian – go check online to see when your bill is ready, and then come back in person to see how much it is and pay it.

However, when Nick made the trip in to pay the bill – the bill was $0. Yep. Free. Bloodwork, and ultrasound and urine testing. Free.

I guess I’ll take a few hours of poor customer service if it’s free. Besides, I wouldn’t have anything to write about if they’d been smiles and friendly would I?

One comment on “The Italian Hospital Experience

  1. Pina says:

    Wasn’t it nice they didn’t ask for a credit card before they even looked at you?