On the other side of the desk

by Riitta Antikainen from Oulu, Finland

Finnish summer empties cities in July, if you happen to be in Helsinki during midsummer celebration you might suffer even from hunger if you did not carry your own lunchbox! No people on the streets, restaurants are closed. However the buildings seem to be undamaged, a neutron bomb, you may conjecture?


No, we Finnish people just spend our summer leave at the water- sea, lakes or rivers. Fishing (I personally own two nets, one rod and one trap), picking mushrooms, swimming and of course enjoying saunas. Apparently we have 3 million saunas (for 5 million people) and 500,000 summer cottages, usually small houses near water . This kind of life is of the highest quality; even the BBC has visited the sauna and got to learn its history http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24328773.


So my plan also was also for a spell of top-quality life at my cottage, but sometimes destiny takes another path!


A not so serious, but still uncomfortable, infection forced me to become an in-patient at the hospital in June, during the best holiday season, essentially lying in the bed in a certain position without permission to move by myself: here I had a sharp introduction to the rules of the hospital day.


I shared the room with Anna, a very nice 86-year old lady. Her company was good and mostly we were silent reading newspapers. My husband and her children kept us updated with daily newspapers early in the morning so I did not participate in the ward battle for the one newspaper between 40 patients. Anna’s relatives did not forget to bring her the fresh summer berries of the day, which were shared between roommates. It was also a positive that there was wifi available (technology city Oulu!), so I could work using my knee as a laptop table. We also had television in the room, so “Heartbeat” every morning became very familiar to me and now I am a Vernon-fan.


Breakfast, lunch, coffee-break, dinner and snack followed each other day after day. Anna was lean andwithout appetite and had pains sometimes despite strong medications. Every day the nurses had time to help Anna to eat the prescribed energy and protein drinks, and also tried to find food which could be delicious for her. But if you are sick enough, eating becomes challenging, even if there is gravlax available!


There was a magic red button at the table. If you pushed it, a nurse came to the room. It was not clear what constituted a good enough reason to give you the right to push the magic red button.  Must pains be moderate, maybe even severe? If your book has fallen down on the floor? Normal or maybe even urgent need to go to toilet?…. The step was very high to push the button, both for me (a doctor) and for Anne.  If Anna needed help, I encouraged her to push the button and vice versa. Surprisingly in that ward, a kindnurse came immediately to see if the need was urgent or whether a visit later was enough. This made us feel safe. This was my first take-home message to nurses of my ward, respond immediately to the patient’s call, not later. If not urgent, the nurse is allowed to attend to the most urgent first but knows that my need is on her/his list.


My hopes and needs were not always the same as those of the doctors taking care of me. They clarified to me that I am not my own doctor but a patient and that they are doctors doing their best. I was a patient with the rights of a patient but not rights of the doctor of the City Hospital. I think this is the only way for a doctor-patient. She/he can concentrate on being a patient and get better, not solve medical problems. I hope you all stay healthy, but if not, learn to be a patient, trust that your colleagues do their best and do not be afraid of the red button.