Greece – Crete 2016

Greece wasn’t my first option but why not to go? I wanted to go in August but there were only two cities offered and they got full. But by some miracle they added also Crete, so I took it without doubt. I chose cardiothoracic surgery department and I got it, but one tiny detail – few weeks before they told me there are no patients after first week. So with few complications I ended up in the best place and in two departments I wouldn’t have opportunity to see normally – cardiothoracic surgery and neurosurgery.

I took plane straight to Heraklion as the easiest option although it is possible to go by ferry from Athens. Ferry is quite cheap but exhausting. As an island, there is not really cheap way to get there.

We were 10 students. Our contact person was great. He made Facebook group with all the info needed, photos of accommodation and he made sure everyone was picked up and got to dorms. Dorms were quite far away and looked old, but there was everything needed – nice kitchen, washing machines, dryers and the most important in 35°C – air condition! We lived in double rooms with our own bathroom. Everything was quite far from there, but it was possible to get everywhere by bus with our monthly pass. Lunch was provided in local restaurant in the city center. It was Greece, so lots of vegetables, raw/cooked and every week the same, so sometimes we changed it for a sandwich or burger someplace.

On the first day in hospital another student took us to our residents. During the first week in cardiothoracic surgery I had opportunity to see two valve replacements and I have no idea how I made it for 7-8 hours, but it was worth it! The professor explained me about the machines and showed me everything about the heart he could. Besides the surgeries I examined few patients, took out some stitches, visited ICU and he showed me some angiographies and scans. The next week I spent somehow in vascular surgery with few surgeries and an outpatient clinic and then 2 weeks of neuro. I was there with one friend and we had the best resident, very friendly and optimistic. Initially no surgeries but he took good care of us. He used every free second he had. He explained us a lot of useful theory, took us to ICU few times and there was also practice. He taught us how to make stitches and nodes, allowed us to take out drains and stitches. My friend who was there longer also drilled the skull a bit and put a catheter in there. And at the end we were lucky to see also some surgeries. In other departments they weren’t so satisfied. Surgeries without explaining and it got even worse when there was none.

The atmosphere in the hospital was a bit different than in Slovakia. People were chilled with their coffees and snacks and they didn’t try to stress us neither. They talked friendly with patients, making jokes. I felt very comfortably there. But sometimes of course they did the opposite, especially in some surgeries – talking loudly or even yelling the Greek way :D.

City was small but nice, lots of narrow streets and people sitting outside eating and drinking. It wasn’t a party city, but the center had nice atmosphere, few kilometers long harbor where we went for walks, waves and also cycling after renting bikes for free. We went out for few times, but our program consisted mostly of hospital, beach and travelling during weekends. We always took a free day and went for 3-day trips. We visited east, west of the island and Athens. Our contact person helped us to plan everything. There were very beautiful places, sadly mostly quite touristic, but we tried to find also some more abandoned ones.

The only think is that if you’re planning to go maybe try July or other month for more surgeries and patients. But to sum it up, I am really glad I ended up here. Friends scared me a bit with the Greek hospital care, but I couldn’t complain at all, at least as a student. I met very nice and funny people, we travelled a lot and I definitely got addicted to Greek salad. And I’ve seen that hospital can work without everyday stress.


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