Santa Clara University

Public Health Science

Yvonne Monteverde's blog

Yvonne Monteverde from Copenhagen, Denmark

Back to Blog


Monday, Nov. 2, 2009

Came back from my long study tour this past weekend. We went to Berlin and Poznan for a week. Along with cultural sites visited, we visited many hospitals to see how the system differs from Denmark. There were many surprises to be had!

Berlin is a city full of somber rich history. Our first stop on the outskirts of Berlin was the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. We were given audio guides and an hour to explore the entirety of the camp. I did not make it to some parts of the camp but other parts I had to see.  We went to the royal church which used to be limited to the royal family. It was huge!! We went inside and also went to the top of the cathedral and got a nice view of Berlin. The statues atop of the cathedral were kept underwater during WWII to protect them from possible destruction. After that, we went to Parliament building for lunch. Needless to say, the meal and view was amazing. Afterwards we were allowed to explore the top of the building on this dome where you could actually see parliament meetings-don’t worry, we needed to go through security check clearance.

We saw the Berlin TV tower, and almost ate there, but couldn’t get a reservation. But we did get to go to a Bike tour of the city, in which we saw sites such as Checkpoint Charlie, a part of the Berlin Wall, Hitler’s Bunker, and a security tower for soldiers attempting to shoot those trying to escape West Berlin.

Poznan on the other hand, although not on everyone’s tourist destination, is a very fun city. Poznan’s nightlife was quite lively for a Wednesday and Thursday night. It was definitely more homogeneous than Germany and Copenhagen. 

On the last day, I was able to do an ultrasound on a woman who was pregnant. Another group of people were able to see a C-section. I was able to see the baby’s heart beating and spine, liver, and his head, extremely low on the belly of the mother. The mother of course was very willing because there are no regulations in Poland about patient privacy really, at least not in the hospital we went to. Because many American or International students study there and the patients are much more willing to let their privacy be invaded. They let you do what you would not normally do before medical school in the states. Funny how I’m calling the US the states now. It was a surreal feeling, and very motivating as well. The day before, we were led to an operation room and saw an endoscopy live, so I saw the stomach of an 8 year old along with his esophagus and duodenum. He was crying but sedated, probably just because of the fear.

The hospitals were definitely different from the states, starting with the facilities. Berlin’s Charite hospital definitely sacrifices money for facilities to put their money into excellent and respectable health care. Even people who are unemployed in Berlin, need to pay their insurance, no excuses. Poland’s operating room was definitely different, with about 7 people in a crowded room eating their lunch in the same room and answering cell phones, is definitely something you do not see in the states. Poland doctors are also not respected and need to work one to two jobs extra just to manage their living expenses. The doctor we talked to mentioned she had worked overtime, but the government of Poland did not enough funds to pay all the extra hours she had worked, so they paid her half as much money. A real shame because this doctor was very well educated. Many pediatric patient rooms were also crowded with up to 4 kids in one dreary room, whereas in a Children’s hospital I visited in Denmark, there were toys and paintings in the entrance, which provided the patient with more comfort.

Although the above countries have limited funds for healthcare, they try not to compromise anything and treat to the best of their ability by educating their doctors. Another note to think about, at times there was a lack of hygiene in the Polish hospitals, definitely not as much gloving or sheets atop the operating table, reuse of equipment. Compared with the states, are we obsessed with hygiene that we create excess waste? Is it worth it? Is it that important to make a patient comfortable in a hospital? Does this really a difference in how well patients are treated?