Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hospital Life

I never stayed overnight in a hospital in the US except when I was born, so I can't really compare, but I can tell about my experience  here in Japan.  

The hospital floor I was on was the surgery floor.  The day I checked in, I was in a room with three other women.  They were all bed ridden, with their curtains closed, so I don't know anything about why they were there.  I had surgery the next morning (Monday), then spent that day until the next morning in the room next to the nurses' station.  The next morning (Tuesday) I moved to a room with five other women.  Like the first room, these people also stayed in the beds with the curtains closed, although these people had visitors during the day within their curtains. 

Every morning, the loud speakers woke everyone up at 6 am and the lights all turned on.  Through out the day there were other announcements, like meals were about to be delivered or nurses would be coming to check or other things I didn't understand.  At 9 pm was the announcement about lights going out, then they did.  There were motion sensor lights near the floor, so if I got up I could find my way to the hall to go to the toilet.  The night nurses all had flashlights.  

Every day, each patient got one of these cards to record toilet trips.  Urine had to be measured and the amount recorded. There are six kanji to record kinds of poop!  The only one I know is second from the bottom, which means watery.

Each person had a thermometer kept at their beside to use while there.  In Japan the thermometer is under the arm not in the mouth. I think the first two days or so the nurses checked temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen level six times a day, then three times a day after that.  I kept my own chart each time they did.  

I was allowed to start walking the morning after surgery (after xrays and blood tests said all was good), so I walked the halls as much as I could. I thought it would help me get to go home sooner.

There was only one shower for the entire floor and it could only be used between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm. There was a sign up sheet on the door. Very few people signed up, so starting the second day after surgery (Wednesday) I could take a shower pretty much anytime between those hours.  

I liked the bed moving up so it was like a lounge chair. The pillow was the typical Japanese pillow made of chopped up plastic straws. I prefer regular fluff kind of pillows.  I didn't sleep well at all.  Besides the snoring and coughing and other types of noises people make in their sleep, there was a lot of hospital alarm kind of noises and the nurses' squeaky carts and stuff like that. 

There was a day room, with manga books and a televison and tables and chairs.  The family members of patients waited there and some patients who were ambulatory hung out in there.  I could practically see my apartment from the window there.  I live about a 10 minute walk from the hospital.   I kind of "met" a patient and his wife through seeing them in the doctor's waiting area and having tests.  I guess he was on about the same schedule as I was.  I was happy to see familiar faces the day after my surgery, but sorry that he was going through what I was.  I finally talked to the wife in the day room.  I called him my byoin no tomodachi, which means hospital friend. I wrote him a little note after his surgery that said get well soon in hiragana.  His wife wrote me a nice note back in hiragana.

Is there anything else I can tell you about the Japanese hospital experience?  If you've been in the hospital elsewhere, what is different or the same?


  1. I hope you are feeling better! I am sending hugs and well wishes your way.

    As for other hospitals... my few stays in the US (one when I was a child and one when my 2nd son was born) included a private room or one roommate. Both rooms had a bathroom with a shower attached for the occupant(s) in the room. And, I remember the nurses visited so often during the night to check in that sleeping through the night was impossible. The room with 2 beds had a curtain that could be pulled to provide some privacy. A couple of years ago, a relative of mine was in the hospital and restroom data had to be recorded. I'm pretty sure the nurses came to check and record it on their chart.

    My first son was born in a Swiss hospital. I was warned they do not give you a hospital gown like they do in the US, so if you are modest you should wear a long shirt when you go into labor. (I was thankful for that advice.) I shared a room with... 4 or 5? other women because our insurance did not cover a private room. There were no dividers between beds for privacy. The room was attached to a nursery and a typical stay was 5-7 days (unlike the US.) Our babies slept in a bassinet near our beds. Every morning, the nurses had us take our babies into the nursery area to bathe them, take their temperature (with a rectal thermometer) and dress them. I don't remember anything about the showers or the bathroom. In Switzerland, my husband could only visit during visiting hours. In the US, he could have stayed in my room with me overnight. After being released from the maternity ward in Switzerland, we were given a schedule listing the days and a location (I forget if it was a weekly or monthly thing) where mothers could take their infants during specific hours to have them weighed and measured and the mothers could discuss any questions or concerns with a nurse at that time. I missed that in the US.

    1. Renee, Thank you so much for your comments!

  2. Hi Pamela,wow so much happening in the hospital,i cant compare as its been over 35yrs ago since i had my last child since i was in hospital,but it is interesting your experience xx

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. I would find it one that I would want to pass quickly. We are spoiled here in the US. My FIL just spent 3 weeks in the hospital and we were there several hours a day, each day. His stay was comparable with mine about 15 years ago when I stayed a week with bacterial pneumonia. Here, you can have visitors 24/7. I found that annoying when I stayed because no one monitored people that brought their noisy children and stayed well past midnight. Nurses visit frequently and record all items...drugs administered, blood pressure, temperature and pulse, and amount urine expelled...on to a computer stationed by the bed. Both my FIL and I had private rooms, though I just read that insurance I will have starting in October allows for two patient rooms. I felt the care I received was far better than what my FIL did. Same hospital, different owners.

    This is a really interesting post. I do have a question. You are an english teacher, so I am wondering why you don't understand some of what is said. Are there different dialects within the country? Just wondering.

    Hope you are feeling and healing well.
    xx, Carol

    1. I teach and speak Engish. My Japanese isn't so strong.

  4. I'm always interested in that type of information. I heard that hospitals in Japan and Korea are pretty good. The few times I've been to a hospital in Montreal were when my dad was there. I was usually stressed when I went and I've gotten to hate hospitals. I will tell you this, I have NEVER gone to a bathroom in there. It's surprisingly dirty for a place that should be spotless and very over crowded.

  5. Interesting to read about your experience Pamela. I have been very fortunate and have only ever had one overnight stay in hospital and that 20 years ago now. xx

  6. My experience of a hospital stay in Japan is much like yours. Every inch of the ward, including the bathrooms was spotless; you could have eaten off the floors! The nurses were some of the kindest and warm hearted people I have ever met here. I wouldn't mind being ill again!!!!!