Diversity Abroad – Blog

Healthcare Abroad: Should it be considered a right or a privilege?

When studying abroad you come across a number of different opportunities that will make you understand other cultures and gain a new perspective of your own. As a future healthcare provider it is in my best interest to learn new ways to improve my career as well as my work environment. Fortunately, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in a country well known for its healthcare system, Italy. While staying in Florence, I was able to get the perspective from a doctor as well as the one from a patient about the Italian health care system. By distinguishing some of the differences and comparing some of the similarities between the Italian healthcare system and that of the United States, I was able to compare and contrast the benefits and disadvantages of each one.

Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi

Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi

 

Education:

To get a degree in medicine some things vary from country to country. In the United States it usually takes longer to become a doctor as opposed to any European country. In Italy, medical school takes up to 6 years, including the 2 years a person needs to become specialized in a particular field. Usually a student pursuing a career in the medical field in the United States has to study from 4 – 5 years as a pre-med student, another 4 years in medical school and an additional 3 to 7 years of residency to become what is known as a general doctor. If a person wishes to become a specialized doctor, such as a dermatologist (medical expert for the skin), the additional years will entirely depend on the specialization, ranging from 2-5 years.

Not only does a person take longer to graduate from medical school in the United States but the tuition to attend school is way higher in America than that of Italy. The tuition per year in the United States, depending on the school the student attends, ranges from $20,000 – $80,000 dollars. In Italy, attending a public school, the student has to pay a tuition of 3,000 Euros per year. The difference is a lot, specially when you have to work to pay for your education and you have to devote much of what little free time you have to learning the material effectively.

Human Right:

The human right to health insurance implies that hospitals, medical facilities, medications, and specialists’ administrations must be open, accessible, worthy, and of good quality for everybody, on a fair premise, where and when required. As I looked into what the Italian doctor said, I noticed that in the United States healthcare is more of a privilege than a right. Italy has many small emergency clinics, free of charge, around the city. In these clinics the doctor on call is usually in charge of checking the patients’ vital signs and diagnosing whether the patient has an emergency that they have to follow up in a hospital or if what they need is an over the counter medicine. Usually these small clinics have a nurse and a doctor present at night, and these individuals are in charge of what is known as “emergency house calls” which consists of patients calling a doctor and getting medical attention through the phone. As oppose to the United States, doctors won’t assist patients over the phone and usually people need to go in to the local hospital for an emergency instead of going to small clinics.

Italians have free access to hospitals, which includes x-rays and blood tests among other things. If the patient needs further medical assistance, this person would be required to apply to be admitted to the hospital and be taken out of the emergency room. If the patient arrives at the hospital after a minor emergency, he/she is charged a minimum percentage for the visit. The United States usually charges an unreasonable amount just to have any blood work done.

In the Italian healthcare system, life saving prescriptions, such as cancer medications, are free of charge as they are considered a necessity to the patient. In the United States, the families of those suffering from cancer have to work and dedicate their whole life to be able to pay for their medications to keep a member of their family alive. Certain things, such as medications, shouldn’t be seen as a luxury in the United States, some of these things should be considered a human right.

Emergency room at the Careggi University Hospital

Emergency room at the Careggi University Hospital

Classmates and professor with our guiding nurse.

Classmates and professor with our guiding nurse.

Organization:

Unlike the United States, Italy has a process of identifying emergencies. In the United States, once the patient arrives to the hospital they are directed to the emergency room. In here the first person that helps the patient is usually a medical secretary, or a person is hired to handle the paper work. The sick/injured patient has to write their name down and wait in line to be attended. In the states, emergency rooms usually work first come, first served, unless the patient is suffering from chest pains or heart burn. In Italy depending on how urgent the care is, the nurses or doctors prioritize their patients. The color of the emergency room determines the severity of the patient’s case. The red code indicates that the patients in this section are in life-threating conditions that need prompt consideration, the yellow code is for patients with potential dangers or possibly life-threating conditions, that desperately require treatment, the green code for patients with minor wounds that can hold up before accepting therapeutic consideration, and last would be the white code for patients considered in a stable condition.

If a patient is considering visiting a doctor for a simple follow up or a general visit they would have to schedule the visit approximately a month prior. As the healthcare in Italy is free, patients get assigned their doctor by the area in which they live in, compared to the United States where a person chooses their doctor depending on their hospital preference. In Italy it would usually be better to visit a private clinic as they work much faster than public clinics. In the United States, the wait to see your primary doctor is usually not as long as that of Italy, but the visit just for a regular check-up ranges from $80 – $300, depending on whether you need to get some tests done and how good your insurance is. In Italy, as you go to the hospitals, the wait is longer to see the doctors, the site is usually not as modern as those of its United States counterpart.

Changing American medicinal services does not imply that the United States could or ought to duplicate any nation’s services precisely. Americans can’t adopt another nation’s structure however they can adjust those ways to deal with America’s acquired conditions in a better, more effective way.

Visiting and becoming part of the staff for the Italian hospital was an unforgettable experience. Not only did the other nurses make me feel welcome, but they were also kind enough to share their knowledge and hospital with me and my classmates. As a nursing student, it was great to experience another country’s hospital as I get to learn a little from another culture. In the future, I will be able to share my experience with others that are interested. You learn about the good things in other countries but you also learn to embrace the good things your country has to offer as well. After my tour around the Careggi University Hospital, I learned that healthcare is indeed a right, and that even though the United States has much to offer to its citizens, we also lack some very important concepts. It is impressive to me how in Italy healthcare is given to anyone who needs it, even tourists and how organ transplant or fatal disease treatments are provided through a facilitated and effective system. Most of these things should be normal and they should not surprise me, but I am glad I was able to have this experience and to be able to share it with you today.

 

Nurse explaining some of the tools they use on daily basis. - Machine to send blood samples to the testing lab.

Nurse explaining some of the tools they use on daily basis. – Machine to send blood samples to the testing lab.

Group picture in the Physical Therapy Room

Group picture in the Physical Therapy Room