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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): An American in a German Hospital

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An American in a German Hospital

I frequently visit people in the hospital over here. Being the commander's wife, you like to see the new babies and check on people when they are hurt or sick. It's just the nature of what you do. When I go visit, the topic invariably gets to what it's like being in an American in a German hospital. It's not like being in the States they say. I've been in one myself, but never having been in an American hospital, I can't compare....but they sure can. Here are some things, that as an American, you should prepare yourself for.

  • The doors and windows stay closed. I was in a German hospital, with my new baby, in the heat of a invariably hot summer with no AC...and wasn't allowed to open the windows...too drafty for the baby...and the door stays closed....Germans like to keep everything fairly quiet and contained....also privacy seems to be a issue as well.
  • Bring your own gear. I'm talking sleepwear, houseshoes, robe, toiletries, things to do...nothing but the sheets you sleep on and maybe a glass of water is supplied for your convenience.
  • Food. I'm not saying they don't feed you, but the food is usually bland, not enough and if you're not used to eating barely a roll for breakfast and a few coldcuts at dinnertime...you are going to starve....bring some snacks.
  • Drink, particulary water. Germans like fizzy water..and lots of tea..if you don't like either, you'd better have a stash of fluids with you. Some of the German hospitals that cater to some Americans may have non-fizzy water, but for the most part, you are SOL....so bring your own.
  • Questions. In the German healthcare system, you just don't ask questions...your doctor tells you what to do and when...you follow along with no questions asked...basta. Again, if your doctor is used to dealing with some Americans, he may have changed his tune somewhat. But I remember trying to chase down a doctor for someone once, and got a serious dressing down from the nurse...and that wasn't the only time. I learned this from my German grandfather...as a German, you keep your mouth shut and don't question your doctor. I'm not telling you to do that, but just be prepared when they look at you like you're nuts when you start asking questions, or worse, they grill you for doing it.
  • Someone who speaks German. I know we have quite a few German wives in the unit. Befriend one and have her come along if she can...and if they are willing. I speak German and have done that quite a few times...it's the least I can do to help out in the unit. Once, when I was not there, we had a wife who was induced with Pitocin to get her labor going...she labored for a few hours, then next thing she knows, she was being given something "to help her sleep"...that turned into another drug that stopped her labor (sleep=stop labor?)....and then sent her home...before she even realized what was going on. She thought she was going to have the baby and soon...she didn't...until two weeks later. She really wished she had known that's what they were doing...guess it was not a literal translation.
Those are the highlights to keep in mind then. German hospitals are not the ala carte hospitals we have in the States. They are efficient for the most part, and do get things done but are low frills in many instances. Just know what to expect, and you'll be that much more prepared...and comfortable:-)) Have you had a foreign hospital experience? Or would you like to share some tips that made your hospital stay more comfortable in the States?

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10 Comments:

Blogger Linda said...

I TOTALLY agree with all you said...and I'd add to the German-speaking part...make sure the person speaks the same DIALECT. My husband speaks German. I learned my numbers and how to say my address properly...but when we were trying to say our address to be written down, no one could understand either of us - when we wrote it down, they REWROTE it the way they wanted to see it, even though the way we wrote it and said it was the Postal Service way....

October 14, 2008 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous kirsten said...

Teas-I used to visit patients moved from our base hospital to the local hospital and the teas always struck me. a special tea if you had a baby, to bring your milk in. a different tea, if you had lost a baby, to dry you up.
And no pampering, at all, whatsoever. Patients giving birth to live healthy children were treated no differently than patients suffering a loss.

October 16, 2008 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger thorngren said...

Try to get your pain meds prescribed on base,if you can. I had knee surgery on the economy with no pain meds. They gave me some kind of homeopathic pill, that did nothing. This was in Stuttgart.

November 25, 2008 at 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you expect? It is a hospital not a spa. American hospitals might be loaded with "conveniencies," but i'd rather use the german health system; it is not costly, and they don't play around-- if you are sick, you get treated. Americnas only shove some tylenol down your throat, and that's it. Spoiled!! And just how many people in an americna hospital would speak to you in german, if you were german??

April 12, 2009 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Jerry said...

I think Anonymous was a little hypersensitive, there. I see this post as an important list of the differences between American and German hospitals, not as a litany of complaints! The German health care system is very good, but it is different, and this can lead to variances in expectations. I am living and studying medicine in SE Europe right now, and it's different here, too. Nationalized health insurance is only part of the change, it's also a completely different view of the interaction between health care workers and patients.
Jerry
www.leads4insurance.com

May 23, 2009 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Joanne said...

and of course the hospital itself matters...my dad, who is retired here, has been inpatient at two. One was fantastic, care was great, clean etc. He currently is at one that turns my stomach, dirty, with used patient towels hanging/touching next to each other to dry;he keeps getting 'infections' (surprise surprise) and as posted above, the Dr.s are hard to track down, and when asked about clinical progress/concerns, they are very vague. As is everywhere, we have come across excellent support staff and nurses who love their job, and then of course there are the others...

October 7, 2009 at 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was recently in a german hospital for 3 weeks it was the worst hospital I have ever been in. Its the main one in Sulzbach near the city of Saarbrucken DO NOT GO THERE!!
1. I slept in bloody sheets for about a week after asking them numerous times to please change the sheets.(they were just lazy).
2. Don't ask questions and do not expect to see your doctor everyday.
3. expect to get yelled at if you do not speak german they think that by yelling at you that you will understand them better so dont get offended and yell back because they will think you are a violent Amercian. ( I just dont understand you im not Deaf!!).
4. what ever you do don't use bad words.
I made the mistake of defending my self while a nurse was yelling at me I made the statement to "Please stop fucking yelling at me and speak to me with some respect". This is a no go what ever you do don't say this, you will be marked as aggressive and told to leave the hospital immediately. So don't defend your self just let them treat you like shit.
My girlfriend is a nurse and even she was shocked by the abuse and terrible service i recived and she is German so thats saying something.

February 16, 2010 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

So sorry to hear about your experience! Germans are so used to not questioning their doctor and seeing their doctor every day is not a given (sometimes you see an asst or a head nurse).

Also, pain management is done so much differently over here. I did not bring that up in the article, but you are expected to deal with a lot more pain that in the US. I've known people who have had "female procedures" and wisdom teeth removed (as examples) who did not receive ANY pain medication after their procedures. This is the norm rather than the exception, so keep that in mind as well.

February 16, 2010 at 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse the way i say this, but in plain english, many of you are so full of it. I am German and i practice medicine and if a patient comes to me then i make the calls if you want to do want you want , then stay at home and heal yourself. our hospitals have been voted better than yours by the international community, even by your military officers and doctors. if you do not like our hospitals and way of doing things you have an option, stick to your military hospital or go back to the united states. I have known and know many American families that give us credit for what we do and how we do it. also many of our specialist treat your soldiers returning from a combat zone almost dying. many of us even volunteer our time at Landstul medical center (american hospital) so if we are so bad why bother with us. skip us and go straight home.

February 26, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Lady, lady...you are going to have to lighten up. I can make a list of things for American hospitals too. All I said above is true...I've been in German hospitals MANY times and I also have a German uncle who is a doctor, so I know of what I speak.

Did I say anywhere here that the care is not exceptional? No, I did not. Plus, this is GENERALLY...of course there will always be exceptions both in Germany and the US....everywhere. I wrote this post, because I think it is valuable and will help Americans cope with the different healthcare system...that is all.

February 27, 2011 at 5:42 PM  

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