¡Vamos al Hospital!

July 16, 2013

in Europe, Katie Kuecker, Spain, Summer 2013

I have written often about my host family, tasty new food favorites and traveling all over Spain, but this time I’ll dedicate this post to one of my university classes. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I am taking Spanish for Health Professions class in Session II.  I have been looking forward to this course all summer to finally learn all that complicated medical jargon useful for my future pharmacy career!

Students in Spanish for Health Professions devote an entire week (and a good chunk of our overall grade!) to an internship at the Hospital Príncipe de Asturias here in Alcalá. We are matched to a local doctor/mentor based on which area or specialty we are most interested in and then spend a minimum of 15 hours shadowing our assigned doctor at the hospital. I was curious about how I would find a good ‘fit’ for the internship, since as a pre-pharmacy student I am not pre-med or pre-nursing like most of my classmates. So, I requested a match with either a general/family medicine doctor or a doctor who works in the laboratorio (lab).

We visited the hospital as a group on Wednesday in advance of the Monday internship start date. There was a guided tour of various areas of the hospital and a general explanation of how the internship system works. First, we each received a bata blanca (white coat) and identification badge which we have to wear every time we come to the hospital.

Internship Class at the Hospital Principe de Asturias

Internship Class at the Hospital Principe de Asturias

Next, we visited radiología (radiology) and saw the different machines (MRI, CAT scan) and also toured ginecología/parto (gynecology/labor and delivery) where the instructor explained the different rooms where women stay throughout the pre-labor, labor and post-labor processes. We also viewed surgery suites; in order to do this, we had to change from our clothes and the bata into sterile green scrubs, a hairnet, and little booties. We looked so professional! During this introductory visit, hospital personnel explained about the air ventilation and the positive air pressure necessary to avoid contaminating surgery suites during operations. We were allowed to look through a window and observe a procedure involving surgery on a patient’s eye! We toured the laboratorio where patients’ samples (blood, tissue, etc) are examined and processed; there were many high-tech machines. We also learned about the general admission procedure when a patient arrives at the hospital and needs care. If it is not urgent, the patient receives a number and waits to be called for triage.

Another big distinction between the public healthcare in Spain as compared to the US is that many of the patient rooms are in a large general area separated by curtains (instead of a private room). Also, one of the negatives of the system is that the waiting lists and time to be seen/treated is very long. We read an article in class about how in Galicia, an area in the northwest part of Spain, people can wait up to 82 days to see a primary care physician for their first visit.

My assigned doctor/mentor works in family medicine. I received his email address with instructions to contact him to set up a schedule for the coming week. When I returned from the Wednesday hospital visit, I was happily surprised to already find an email from him. He requested to meet the next day in the hospital cafeteria after class to discuss next week. After my midterms, I took the bus over to the hospital for our meeting. I was a bit apprehensive – almost like when I met my host family for the first time.  But (again), I had nothing to worry about! Dr. Nazareno is extremely friendly, warm, and enjoys talking with me. An interesting note:  – he is actually from Argentina, so has a different accent than the Spaniards, but I could still understand him completely. We chatted about Wisconsin, the pharmacy profession, his family, and how he became interested in family medicine. It was a nice way to get to know each other before I start the internship on Monday.

The Health Professions class is very intense, but completely worth the extra effort. In what other Spanish class are you going to have the opportunity to shadow a doctor as part of your grade and gain practical career knowledge? This class is also a big reason why I chose the CIEE Liberal Arts Summer Study Abroad program as it will help me in combining my love for the Spanish language with a career in healthcare. I have learned so much new vocabulary already that will be extremely useful in my career as a pharmacist. With this hospital internship, I’ll be able to work on patient-pharmacist relations and my Spanish communication skills. I can’t wait to see what the next week of my internship brings!

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