Praise of the Week (JB)

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julianabjornsdottir_dlHealthcare professionals are an extraordinary group of professionals. They work night and day at hospitals and clinics around the country, some with fewer facilities than others, and some in rural areas serving larger and larger regions.

Since 2008, healthcare professionals have paid a steep price for the failure of the economy in form of growing unemployment and increased stress levels during work hours.

The boundaries continue to be pushed to the very extreme and at one point cutbacks are bound to shake the foundations of the institutions safeguarding the health of the nation.

Remarkably enough, the overworked and underpaid staff of hospitals and clinics work miracles and provide the kind of service any hospital would be proud to offer.

Last week, I discovered for myself just how excellent their service is when a small emergency required immediate medical attention.

My husband and I made our way to the emergency room at the Landspítali national hospital Fossvogur building, located in a residential area near the twirling Pearl, otherwise known as Perlan, a favorite tourist destination in the city of Reykjavík.

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The main Landspítali building on Hringbraut. Photo by Dagbjört Oddný Matthíasdóttir.

It was a lovely Sunday morning and after almost a week of discomfort, I decided to take my husband to the hospital for a proper check-up as a visit to the general physician did not prove sufficient for the condition in question.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were the only ones in the waiting room and found ourselves with a nurse within 15 minutes of our arrival.

She was thorough in her questions and together we filled in the details of my husband’s recent discomfort.

A young intern then came to take us to the next station, an examination room down the hall. The second nurse on duty was particularly friendly and helpful as she questioned us further to fill in the details for the resident on duty.

She explained the diagnostic procedures to come and gave my husband a white liquid to see if it would prove sufficient to cure his ailment.

She also gave him something for the nausea he’d been struggling with for almost a week at that point. She took blood from him and a urine sample was provided as well.

Before leaving us in the examination room she offered me coffee and water and brought it to the room with a smile on her face.

During the three quarters of an hour we waited for the resident on duty, she came to check up on us a couple of times and always with a friendly smile.

When the resident came to see my husband he too was exceedingly friendly. I could tell he was a bit rushed but he still took the time needed to examine and temporarily diagnose my husband.

He informed us that since the medication the nurse had given him had proved useful we probably had nothing to worry about, but insisted on waiting for the results of the blood and urine test.

Approximately two hours later he returned with all results, during which time the helpful nurse came several times to check up on us.

On the wall was even a small note to the patient in waiting where an approximate waiting period was given for individual tests.

At the end of the day, the condition did not prove to be severe but still the resident insisted on sending my husband to one final test to rule out any malignant conditions, a test that thankfully showed nothing out of the ordinary.

All in all, our visit to the emergency room was one of relative comfort and relief. We were never made to feel silly for having come with a case that to be honest was not in any way life-threatening.

It was a relief visit we should have made as soon as the symptoms resisted to cease, regardless of the medication my husband had received earlier in the week from the local GP.

All of the staff that attended to us spoke excellent English and made sure to explain every step of the way to my husband in his native language.

The realist in us did not expect the overworked medical professionals to perform at such a high level given the burden of responsibility for their many patients.

They work long shifts under a great deal of pressure to provide the patients who depend upon them with diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

And in some instances they become the dark angel of mercy as they deliver bad news to patients already frightened by the physical conditions ailing them. They soothe the patient and provide the information available to the patient’s family and friends.  

My respect and admiration for the oppressed medical professionals in Iceland, who regardless of their hard work and constant re-adjustment to less and less funding to operate, continue to perform a high level of patient care.  

A relative of mine is by all accounts considered to be one of the best midwives in the country. She is young yet possesses a kind professional demeanor which no doubt is born out of passion for her chosen profession.

She too is underpaid and overworked but continues to maintain a high level of support and professionalism in the delivery room.

It seems to me that here in Iceland, we can continue to rely on the hard-working medical professionals, regardless of the endless cuts in funding, courtesy of the current government.

Like the arts and other redundant professions that often do not provide visible profit, healthcare has always suffered.

Improvements in name of progress were not made a priority in the years of false economic bloom, and in the current recession healthcare continues to come last.

To me, the praise of the week (if not of throughout all the recession years) goes to the remarkable healthcare professionals whose selfless sacrifice is often unnoticed, as they themselves continue to keep the health of the nation afloat in a work environment where fear of redundancy looms around the corner.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.