Dos and Don’ts for staying in a Polish hospital

Being in the hospital is often scary. It can be even scarier if you’re in a country with unfamiliar customs and language.

If you find yourself in a Polish hospital, here are some dos and don’ts for making it through.


DO:

Bring all the helpful documents you can. That includes your passport/other ID, medical history, emergency contact numbers, and proof of insurance (if you have it). If you can’t get proof of insurance right away, don’t worry – you have a grace period either 14 days after commencement of treatment or seven days after release from hospital. You can find out how to prove insurance here.

DON’T:

Expect everyone there to speak English. In our experience, about half of the doctors in public hospitals speak English, and most of the nurses don’t.

DO:

Learn some key Polish phrases. Here are some handy words you might say to the staff, and here are some terms you might hear them use. When in doubt, though, if you just say “English”/”Angielski” then they will almost certainly find someone who can speak to you. And if it’s an emergency, remember that SOR is the Polish name for the emergency room, and 999 is the emergency medical phone number. (999 operators are required to know English.) On the other hand, if it’s an expected procedure like childbirth or a scheduled surgery, it might be worthwhile to have any special information for the medical staff professionally translated and printed out before the big day.

DON’T:

Expect privacy. You might be in a room with three or even more other people, with no curtains. Unfortunately this is just a reality of budget and space limitations in many Polish hospitals.

A patient's meal at Szpital Wojewódzki w Łomży
A patient’s meal at Szpital Wojewódzki w Łomży

DO:

Bring some food if you can, or have some brought. Polish hospital food is notoriously awful – meals sometimes just consist of bread and hard butter. There may at least be a small refrigerator for patients and/or a small shop (sklep) that sells additional items. If you have a special diet, you can tell them:

  • vegetarian – wegetariański
  • vegan – wegańskie
  • diabetic diet – dieta cukrzycowa
  • dairy-free – bez (produktów) mlecznych
  • gluten-free – bezglutenowe
  • nut allergy (though it’s unlikely any Polish hospital food would contain nuts anyway) – alergia na orzechy

DON’T:

Count on there being Wi-Fi. Be sure to bring your mobile and charger. In some hospitals there are pay-as-you-go computer stations in public areas, or the hospital will let you use a phone. While you’re at it, bring a few books or other entertainment as well if you’re in for a long stay, because diversions can be hard to come by.

DO:

Reach out to your embassy or consulate if you need assistance from them. You can find a directory of embassies and consulates in Poland here.

DON’T:

Stay up late. The nurses in Polish hospitals start checking on patients as early as 5 or 6 am. If you have trouble falling asleep, they may be able to provide a sleeping tablet (pigułka nasenna).

DO:

Bring any clothes or hygiene products you may need. The hospital will probably expect you to mostly wear your own clothes, not a hospital gown. You should include in that wardrobe a pair of shower sandals, as the bathing facilities will likely be shared.

DON’T:

Worry about the level of care you’ll receive. Yes, the architecture and interior decorating (including a crucifix above each door) in Polish hospitals may seem dated. But Poland’s healthcare workers are highly educated and professional, and the medical equipment itself is usually quite modern. Your health is in good hands.


Jens Arnesen contributed to this article.

6 thoughts on “Dos and Don’ts for staying in a Polish hospital

  • August 24, 2018 at 8:50 pm
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    Some people just love to give a bad picture about Poland
    (are you from BBC?) , never seen meal like that in Polish hospital unless someone is on some diet. Stop treating Poland like a country from different world .
    You say that we have good professional staff, modern equipment but your biggest problem is a Crucifix, uuuuu…

    Reply
    • August 25, 2018 at 11:37 am
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      I literally wrote this article from a Polish hospital.

      Reply
  • August 24, 2018 at 9:59 pm
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    What you gonna say about English hospitals???
    I’m Polish and I think Polish health services are much better than English? Do you need an example? My husband had a knee operation around 3 month ago. Not even one doctor seen him yet! Is that normal?

    Reply
  • August 25, 2018 at 11:39 pm
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    Sorry to say but English NHS is absolutely horrible. Let me tel you something. My mum was diagnosed with some polips. The NHS arrange a operation for her.she was fasting for a week ( it was a requirement ).I took 2 days because they didn’t allow her to be on her own. And what ? Nothing .they put her sleep and didn’t find anything. When I ask what’s happened? They doctor said: hmm I don’t know.Maybe it’s a miracle. Lol.Now I am laughing but that day I was very angry and upset.
    What a shame !!! Please everybody be aware of English hospitals and treatmentsc they do offer.

    Reply
  • August 26, 2018 at 11:42 am
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    Good information, exacly How it is.The author should not be put off by comments.People in Poland should know by now that many foreigners don’t know anything about this country. This is also because they not Intrested in sharing informations and they mostly stick to themselves. Locking up in getto doesn’t help ether. Poland’s is not a massive tourist destination country , so Poles should know better,

    Reply
  • August 28, 2018 at 11:10 am
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    I cannot knock the UK NHS. If it hadn’t been for them a few years ago, then I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this comment. All medics are brilliant, in England or in Poland.

    Reply

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