Getting Medical Help

While good decision making will likely reduce the incidence of injuries or accidents, accidents happen, and there is little that can be done on your travels to avoid a medical emergency such as heart attack or stroke.

If you are in sudden need of medical attention abroad, there are several resources available to assist you in getting the proper level of attention.

Hopefully you have prepared well for your trip and have purchased a travel insurance policy. Nearly all policies provide a contact number where help is available 24/7. The assistance company can advise where to go for appropriate care and monitor your treatment and condition, contact your home doctor(s), keep your family at home informed, and arrange appropriate transportation if you need to return home other than via your originally scheduled arrangements. If the local medical personnel do not speak English, the assistance company can provide translation services. Payment for medical services and transportation are payable or reimbursable as outlined in the particular policy purchased.

Another resource is the local US Embassy or US Consular office. These offices can provide you a list of local hospitals and English-speaking physicians. Contact the US Embassy or Consulate in the country you are traveling in for assistance 24/7.

If you are staying at a hotel, call the front desk and ask for assistance. Some of the larger hotels and resorts actually have medical personnel in-house or can contact someone immediately.

If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, have a phrase book handy to assist in getting you the help needed.

Prior to departure, be certain to write down all of your prescriptions, over the counter medications and vitamins with frequency and dosage. Also have available important phone numbers for your primary care physician and any specialists. Keep these documents with you at all times.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing medical attention while abroad, be prepared. Lying in a hospital in a foreign country is no time to find out that your health insurance does not provide overseas medical coverage or evacuation. Generally speaking, you are going to receive a higher quality of medical service in a private hospital vs. a public facility. However, a SIGNIFICANT deposit before treatment and certainly before releasing you from the facility may be required.

Many medical doctors speak some English or can at least understand enough to get your treatment started. I have yet to find a country in which nursing care is anywhere near the level of that in the United States. Often times, family members or traveling companions are expected to provide basic bedside care, meals and address hygiene issues as they arise.


Gabrielle Bartusiak, RN
President/CEO Rescue Nurse International. Has traveled solo to more than 70 countries world wide and has repatriated 100's of patients over her career.