I had the unique experience of studying international nursing through Saint Louis University. The way the program was set up was that I spent two years studying nursing in Spain, started clinicals in the Spanish hospital, then transferred to the United States, studied for another three semesters and finished up clinicals, take the NCLEX and then once I get my nursing degree in the United States, I would return to Spain and study in the Spanish university and get my nursing degree so that I could work anywhere in the European Union.
It was a fun adventure, though I didn't finish with both degrees. One thing that really did surprise me was how different healthcare was in America vs Spain. Spanish healthcare is nationalized, which means that everyone has healthcare. There are those who can pay extra for a special insurance, but no matter what their situation, they could see the doctor and get procedures done without needing any extra insurance.
It sounds like a dream come true, but the more I watched it in action, the less impressed I was by it. My mother-in-law has some health issues, and when she needed surgery, she was put on the list. The list wasn't affected by who needed it more urgently, instead it was determined by who signed up first. She was in intense pain, but she had to wait for many, many months before she could get it fixed.
When I was in Spain, I got to experience it firsthand, both as a patient, and again as a nursing student. When I was a patient, I found that things weren’t as easy as they are here. I had abdominal issues, and I went to the doctor, who only had five minutes to talk to me. That was how much time he was allowed to spend with me. Then I had to get some tests done, and since I didn’t speak Spanish, I brought another nursing student who could. He wasn’t allowed in with me because he was a male, so I was forced to go through a colonoscopy all alone, not knowing what was going on.
Once the results came back, I was the one who had to pick up the results from the hospital and then take them to the doctor because they didn’t have any way to communicate it to one another. It was a huge pain, and I’d never had to do so much footwork for my doctor before.
As a nursing student, I saw hospital floors where there was only one sink, and no hand sanitizer available to the nurses. And we didn’t have gloves because they were considered “impersonal.” Nurses weren’t allowed to assess their patients, and the night nurse would pop all of the pills for the next day. The day nurses didn’t even know what medications they were giving.
As many issues as we have in our healthcare system, I’ve got to say, it could be much worse. And I’m grateful for the rules and regulations we have, because it keeps us safe, and keeps medicine moving forward.