Need to find a new doctor?
I have always hated going to the doctor. The car ride there as a child was pure anxiety evoking torture. As an adult, I have to force myself to make appointments. And making appointments in a foreign country? Yikes. Even if you are diligently working away at learning German (which I’m not), when it comes to health issues, you don’t want any confusion.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
#1 Some doctors only take private insurance. Google (probably what you’re doing now) and get pre-approved by insurance to avoid problems later.
#2 When you call, it’s best to at least try to start off with a little German. See my survival phrases at the bottom.
#3 Most doctors speak relatively good English (you can sigh in relief now). If the staff who answers the phone or works the front desk speaks English, you’ve hit a home run!
#4 German doctors tend to have a more holistic approach than American doctors. They often opt for natural treatments. For example, I mentioned that I have trouble sleeping and instead of leaving with a prescription for Ambien (which I didn’t want anyway), I left with a prescription for lavender oil (which you can buy over the counter – but with a prescription insurance will pay for it).
#5 If you have to go to the emergency room (and yes, I had to go. Fell down the stairs. 18 stitches), they are nicer than the U.S. from my experience. (for example – no curtained off areas. You actually go into a room)
#6 When it comes to paying the bill, the doctor will mail it. Then, you can either pay it and have insurance reimburse you, or pay the doctor directly. It’s different from The States in that the doctor will not contact your insurance provider directly.
I have private insurance, so make sure to check what the doctor accepts.
Emergency Room: Evangelical Hospital Düsseldorf: As stated above, I had an accident shortly after moving here and had to visit the ER. This ER super efficient, very clean, the wait times are pretty good, and the staff is friendly and professional.
** Important note: call 112 for an ambulance or 110 for police ** (I just took a cab, but it’s good to know)
Primary care physician: Schulte-Goebel Axel Dr.med., Najorka Katrin Dr.med., Steinhaus Ulrike – I only went here to have my stitches removed. The staff and doctor were very friendly. The staff did not speak English well enough to understand what I needed over the phone, but I was able to make an appointment. The doctor spoke English well enough, and was very kind and effective. Ultimately, I decided to try to find an office where I could be better understood when calling in (in retrospect, I should have just stayed with this office).
Primary care physician: DOCTOWN – Meh…. Maybe the other doctor’s speak better English. I had read reviews that the younger Dr. Timms is proficient. Make sure to ask for the specific doctor. I didn’t realize there were more than the two doctors there. I got stuck with a lady who’s bedside manner (in English at least) is lacking (don’t feel comfortable posting her name because she is still my Dr.). Her English is at a level where there are often misunderstandings or a lack of conveyed information. Overall, the experience has been… cold.
Dermatologist: Dr. Manuel Cornely. I don’t think I saw Dr. Cornely. I don’t know if she was even actually a doctor (nurse practitioner?). Here, I felt like a number or a cow being herded through a pen. The doctor (?) barely listened, then prescribed a ridiculous amount of tests. I think they were just trying to squeeze money out of my private insurance. Bottom line though – I got my screening, so mission accomplished, and I don’t have to go back.
Psychologist: Dr. Lucy O’Connor – Unlike the dermatologist, this one matters to me – a lot. A good psychologist can change your life. I feel sooooooooooo lucky to have found a native speaking therapist in Germany. Her accent is a dream to listen to and she hands you hot tea when you walk in, but even aside from that – she is great at what she does. I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder my entire life and have had to see therapists on and off and she tops my list. I highly recommend seeing her.
Psychiatrist: Dr.med. Roxana Schäfer – I really like Dr. Schäfer. Her English isn’t perfect, but there is no problem communicating at all. She understands perfectly, and who cares about grammar mistakes when you clearly know what the Dr. is talking about? She is relatable, obviously very smart, and best of all – she takes her time with the patient. I’ve been to psychiatrists before where I felt like they barely looked at me, much less knew my name without looking on a chart. They quickly prescribed medicine, and I had to try a handful before finding one that worked (probably because they didn’t take their time to do it right the first time). Not the case with Dr. Schäfer. She spent over an hour talking to me, and she made me feel really comfortable even though I had walked in with a lot of anxiety.
Survival Phrases for General Scenarios:
Hallo, mein Name ist [name] = Hello, my name is [name]
Ich brauche einen Termin = I need an appointment.
Ich habe eine Frage = I have a question
Ich hätte gerne ein [say what you want or point to it!] = I would like a…
Entschuldigung = Sorry
Ich spreche nicht sehr gut deutsch = I don’t speak German well.
Ich verstehe nicht = I don’t understand.
Sprechen Sie Englisch? = Do you speak English?