My Danish Doctor Wears Diesel Jeans
Yes, it’s true. My doctor was strutting $200 Italian designer jeans at my last appointment. I don’t know why but it just struck me. I’m used to doctors wearing scrubs like a uniform of sorts that signals, “I’m a doctor, I know what I’m doing, trust me.”
I suppose it’s fine that a doctor chooses to wear the latest style and trend however I’m not sure if it’s the best message to send to patients. Patients that are paying their salary via high taxes (upwards of 50-60%). While I secretly wish for my own pair of Diesel jeans, I don’t know if I would flaunt them if I were treating ill patients. But this is Denmark, where sporting brand names like Lacoste, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana or Louis Vuitton is almost as interwoven into the social fabric as is eating rye bread for lunch.
This starts at a young ripe age and even includes underwear, i.e. the famous Bjørn Borg skibbies hanging out of the skinny jeans. I’ve even seen these brand names listed on a 13-year-old’s Birthday “wish list.”
It’s not just the pants.
I went in for a month-long earache problem I’ve had and was told to try some over-the-counter nose spray. When I asked the dr. what to do if it didn’t go away after I tried the nose spray for the recommended 5-6 days and he simply shrugged his shoulders (insinuating “I don’t know”), shook his head and said it might take more time before it goes away. That’s it. I’m not saying the doc is incompetent, it’s just all too familiar advice to be told to basically do nothing, which is essentially what I had done for the last month or so since it started.
The funny thing is that when I went to the pharmacy to purchase the nose spray, I decided to pose the same question. “What should I do if the problem doesn’t go away after the max. 10 days of usage?” “Well, I would go back to the dr.,” the woman said. Hmmm….P.S. the nose spray didn’t work and I ended up having ear infections in both ears that spread to my jaw. It is better now thanks to a substitute dr. that finally addressed the problem.
It’s almost like when my husband went to an ear, nose and throat speacialist for a tinitus problem and the dr. told him to put a piece of cotton in his ear. That was it. No other advice was given. Or when another person I know had the whole work-up for snoring and was told that it’s perfectly normal for a person to snore and that there’s no harm in it. Tell that to his wife.
More recently a more serious situation occurred that required at 112 (911) call at 3:00 am and hospital visit for a most unfortunate and potentially preventable situation. When the person had this particular condition checked a month ago he was told, “let’s see what happens.” Well, we have seen what happened and it wasn’t good.
It seems the solution for most ailments is to do nothing and assume that it will simply go away. It only really leaves you with a feeling that you are stuck with this problem and on your own with something that is unfixable. Live with it. I guess it could be due to the whole Viking mentality, which can be pretty raw and scary if you ask me.
This approach has been positive in many regards because I’ve drastically reduced the amount of antibiotics I’ve taken and I do tend to nurse my ailments naturally now instead of going for meds. I also admit that Americans are more drug crazy and are taught that there is a magic pill out there for everything when in reality there’s not.
But to me it’s frustrating that when you have a problem it’s not taken very seriously until you are almost dying or it becomes extreme. There is no real preventative medicince practiced either. Tests are rarely offered and almost never for routine check ups — most times you have to ask for them yourself. Due to this I’ve learned that I need to take things into my own hands and ask for what I need. So has a fellow expat blogger at www.cantcopenhagenblogspot.com who wrote about her experiences with the medical system in here post, “doctor’s orders.” After reading her post, I know for sure I am not alone.
In the end, I am a person that likes to get things resolved in the most efficient manner possible. It doesn’t mean that I’m impatient, but waiting for months at a time (and sometimes years) to see a specialist can test your limits. Time that people litterally die while they wait to get treatment. While it is truly fantastic that you can go to the doctor and see a specialists for “free” (free = high tax), the overall approach to medicine is more about treating the acute rather than prevent illness.
My experience with the system has not been entirely negative but unfortunately it has been extremely disappointing and concerning. I’ve consulted with doctors in the U.S. and I wouldn’t think twice about doing it again if necessary. You can get good care here, but you also need to really push for and ask for what you need because normally it’s not offered or suggested. This includes regular OBGYN check-ups, mammograms, blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid tests, etc. It’s up to you.
To those that have encountered this problem or that don’t know how to navigate through the medical system yet, I have the following advice.
Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Danish Doctors:
1) Tell the dr. what is wrong and tell them what you want (ie., medicine, tests, a referral). Do not expect that the dr. will order any tests or perscribe medication.
2) If you are not happy with your dr. and can’t communicate well with him/her — get another dr. Do not settle for less. There is a list of referrals on the U.S. Embassy web site. That or get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
3) For anything more than a cold or flu, it may be best to just ask for a referral to a specialist automatically.
4) Know your rights. If you have a long waiting time for a procedure, there is a possiblity that you can get in to see a private dr./specialist earlier.
5) Know that you can always go to Germany or Sweden for care. This includes the dentist, which I understand is substantially less expensive than in DK.
6) Don’t take the fact that drs. have absolutely no bedside manner personally. Get sympathy from your friends and family.
7) There is no such thing as follow up so if have a problem that needs to be checked after treatment, schedule it on your own.
8) Be assertive. Be VERY assertive.
9) Put your dr’s phone number in your mobile phone memory so you can use the automatic re-dial when calling for an apt or to speak to him/her.
10) Share your stories and ask questions. The more information you have about the system from others, including Danes, the better. There seems to be an unwritten rule book that only exists between lips and not on paper. At least it wasn’t readily handed out to me when I met with my integration counselor.
And the bonus piece of advice: stay healthy so you don’t need the dr. 🙂