Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Meet the G.P.

This morning I had my first appointment with our G.P. – General Practitioner. The office is about a half mile from our house and I had an appointment with a native English-speaking doctor in the practice. Promptly at my appointment time, the doctor, who I’ll call G.P. from here on out, came out to the waiting area and called my name. Back in her office, G.P. herself took my medical history and did my basic evaluation – blood pressure, etc.; something nurses usually do in the States. And her office was exactly that – a desk with a printer, computer, files and other trappings of someone’s office space – along side an exam table, medical equipment and toys for children of various ages.

I learned that during a pregnancy, the mother usually sees her G.P. three times. First at the beginning of the pregnancy, second around 20 weeks and finally at 35 weeks. After the first visit, the mother is assigned to a hospital and a midwife. I’m not sure how often they usually see the midwife at this point though I’ve heard that it doesn’t follow the States general standard of every four weeks with increased frequency toward the end of the pregnancy. I’ll be 23 weeks tomorrow (or around 5.5 months) so I’m getting into the system a little late.

After the first visit, the G.P. sends my paperwork to the closest maternity hospital in my area and, in a week or two, I should receive a letter with the name of my midwife and the time of my first appointment with him/her. In the letter, I’m also given instructions on where to go for an ultrasound. G.P. was suggesting that they do two ultrasounds in Denmark, the first at 11-12 weeks and the second at 19-20 weeks.

Because during a pregnancy you work with a number of different medical professionals you get what was described to me as a walking diary. I had a vision of a Hello Kitty diary complete with padlock but it is really just an envelope with two sheets of paper in it at this point. The vandrejournal has information on my blood workups, my height, weight and other stats, and space for other general comments. It’s basically my medical file and I’m responsible for taking it with me to appointments with G.P., the midwife and the ultrasound technician. I like being able to read my own chart.

After answering my many questions about the prenatal process and a few about how to handle John’s well-baby visits, I sat outside the nurse's station for a few minutes waiting for a nurse to draw a blood sample. G.P.’s comment on my Stateside blood workups was something like, “they test for a lot...” but they didn’t test for hepatitis which is commonly done here. So a nurse drew my blood sample then, while I was sitting in the same seat where she drew my blood, scheduled my appointment for my next visit with G.P. and John’s 15-month visit. It was interesting to me how so many of the nurse’s functions were performed by the doctor and then how many of the lab and receptionist functions were performed by the nurses. The system was very efficient though. I didn’t have to wait very long for anything and I was out of there in slightly over an hour.

One other noteworthy thing: none of the doctors wore white coats and none of the nurses were in scrubs. In fact I had a really hard time telling nurses, doctors and patients apart. They all wore the more casual side of business casual clothes. And seemingly everyone in Denmark is on a first name basis. My doctor was referred to by her first name by all the staff and she introduced herself to my by first name only. I had to look at the plaque on her door to finally discover her last name. At the end of the appointment, I finally asked G.P. if I should refer to her by her first name or Dr. M and she told me she went by her first name as did all her colleagues. I gather this is common among doctors, PhDs and other people who might normally go by a particular title back in the States. I’m not sure how much this has to do with a certain Danish cultural taboo against bragging that I’ve heard mentioned. It’s definitely very different from a few people I’ve met who become rather upset if you do not refer to them by their hard-earned title!

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