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How Do I Get Medical Care In Russia? (Part II) Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in when in Russia

Last time we talked about where you can get medical attention in Russia, how to make an appointment, and what to expect at the healthcare facility. Here are a few other frequently asked questions.

Doctor at his desk

Petrov Research Institute of Oncology [CC BY-SA 4.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Which One’s The Doctor?

Once you are called into the doctor’s office/examination room (кабинет врача), you may see more than one person behind a desk. It could be that several doctors share the same room, in which case you will need to sit down on a chair closest to your doctor’s desk. It is also common that the doctor shares the room with a nurse (usually медсестра, masculine медбрат), who helps the doctor during the visit (приём).

The nurse may be taking notes, preparing equipment or medications, or helping the doctor with the physical examination. Which brings me to another important difference — the doctor will be much more hands-on than in medical systems with greater division of labo(u)r. They may take your blood pressure (измерить давление) or even perform certain diagnostic tests (провести диагностические обследования).

One medical team is usually located in a single designated room and does not go from room to room to see different patients. Moreover, the entire team is normally in the room the moment you walk in, and no one will be coming or going during your visit.

5. How’s The Bedside Manner?

Russian customer service (here, сервис) in general often leaves much to be desired, and Russian bedside manner may be harsher than what you are used to. Much of the biomedical culture still presupposes that “doctor knows best,” although that attitude may be more more patient-centered in private, paid facilities.

Girl outdoors in a hospital gown

Image from TaylorHerring on flickr.com

It follows from this philosophy that patient privacy (личное пространство — “personal space” or конфиденциальность — “confidentiality”) and dignity (достоинство) take a back seat to treatment concerns. As a result, hospital gowns, knocking on the door, and telling the patient when you are going to touch them are uncommon, the thinking being “I’m here to help you; I’m a medical professional, so there is no need to be embarrassed.” In practical terms, this means you will likely be asked to undress for a physical exam (осмотр) or a procedure (лечение for “treatment” or обследование for “test”) with the doctor, other medical providers and even patients present and will not be offered anything to cover up with.

It also follows that patient comfort may be less of a concern, meaning that some procedures that are done under sedation (под наркозом) abroad, are routinely done on an awake patient in Russia. Upper endoscopy (ФГС) is one such procedure, where only the patient’s tongue is numbed. Once again, private clinics will likely have more patient-friendly standards.

On the positive side, it may be relatively easy for you to ask for and get a referral (направление) for tests and imaging studies like an MRI (МРТ) or EKG (ЭКГ), especially if you are willing to pay. Russian medical providers often think along the lines of “better safe than sorry.”

I hope this was helpful for you to learn how the healthcare system works in Russia. What was your experience like?

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


  1. Sue:

    I received some medical care in Moscow in 1995. I had my teeth cleaned and checked, I had a sorained finger looked at, and I had a check up early into a pregnancy. I was a little surprised when the doctor and nurse had me undress right in front of them, but otherwise I was treated very well.

  2. Sue:

    I meant sprained finger.

  3. Rosalie Brosilow:

    How can I get the first part?