I recently retired from a lifelong career as a critical-care nurse and I have always been curious about hospitals in foreign countries. Often I have been tempted to walk inside and have a look around. Usually there isn’t enough time, but on his particular day in Venice I had no agenda and had plenty of time. When I realized I was walking alongside the hospital in Venice, I decided that today I would satisfy my curiosity.
As I entered the doors of Ospedale SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Castello I was surprised to find a sprawling labyrinth of walkways and halls.
I didn’t realize that this building occupied a former fifteenth-century monastery, known today as Scuola Grande di San Marco. You’d never know from this elaborate facade that inside its walls is a hospital.
Known to the locals as Ospedale Civile, this is the main hospital in Venice.
I wandered around without any signs of security or anyone questioning me.
Soon I passed the psychiatric department but couldn’t see anything other than this sign.
Eventually I came across the Emergency Room or Pronto Soccorso Traumatologico. From what I could see everything looked very clean and modern. I was already impressed.
I decided that possibly I might be able to visit the ICU which was upstairs by way of the elevator. At the information desk I was pleased to find a friendly young Italian gentleman who spoke perfect English. I inquired if I might be able to have a tour of the ICU, since I was a critical-care nurse visiting from the USA. I expected to be turned down, but to my surprise, he was happy to oblige. “Let me call upstairs and see if this is possible. Please wait here,” he said.
Within a few minutes he informed me that he would escort me to the floor where the ICU was located. I could not believe my good luck. When we got off the elevator a sign directed us to an area called CICU (Cardiological Intensive Care Unit). “Please wait here while I speak to the nurse in charge,” he said. After about two minutes a woman wearing blue scrubs and a name tag approached me and spoke in Italian. Obviously the charge nurse, she indicted that she needed to obtain permission from the director. She instructed me to put on some paper booties, like the ones typically worn in the operating room.
The gentleman from the Information Desk waited with me until she returned and motioned for me to follow her. He then said goodbye and went back to his duties, while she escorted me inside the unit. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any photos here, and I also was aware that she was busy and I was grateful for the opportunity to tour her ICU.
Once inside I observed a center desk and console of state-of-the-art cardiac monitors. No one was sitting at the desk. She explained in Italian that the unit had seven beds and an extra room for emergencies. She brought me into that emergency room, where they treat patients who have coded. I was surprised to see two balloon pumps sitting there. Standard equipment in most busy critical-care areas, I didn’t expect a small unit in Italy to have such high-tech equipment. Now I was doubly impressed. We walked past a room where a patient was on a ventilator, and she told me that she could not take me in there, for patient privacy reasons, naturally.
I asked her if they stay busy and she said yes, informing me that only two nurses care for all these patients, and that the nurse-patient ratio is the same for both day shift and night shift. She shrugged her shoulders to express her frustration with the short-staffing issues, which seem to be the same as in the States.
I thanked her and said good-bye, letting her get back to work. I never saw another nurse.
So I left the hospital feeling good, my curiosity satisfied. I also know that if I am in Venice and would need the services of a hospital, this would be the place to go.
Outside the hospital were the water ambulances. (Yes of course the ambulance is a boat.) If you look across the lagoon in this photo you’ll see Isola di San Michele, Venice’s cemetery, conveniently located.
This was not your typical touristy day but a satisfying one for me to be sure.
Have you had to seek medical care in Italy? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please leave a comment.
Grazie and ciao.
If you haven’t been to my Author page, Books by Margie Miklas yet, you can check out my books for more personal stories about Italy.