Going to the doctor’s or to the pharmacy

When you arrive in France, you must subscribe to the student social welfare system. You can also subscribe to a health insurance to get better reimbursements.

Go to the doctor’s:

During your stay in France, you may have to go and see a doctor. You should know that there are different types of doctors in this country:

The family doctor: a family doctor will take care of every kind of pain or disease. He will make a diagnosis and might redirect you towards an expert if needed. He will give you a letter that you will have to hand to your specialist. A typical appointment with a family doctor costs 23 euros. Your social welfare system will repay you a part of this sum.

The specialists: they are doctors who chose a specialty. There are many types of specialists: gynecologists, psychiatrists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, dentists ( dentiste garde )… There are some specialists that you can see without a letter from your doctor but most of them will need you to be recommended to them by your family doctor. An appointment with a specialist can cost you between 25 and 90 euros that will be only in some measure repaid by your social welfare system.

You won’t need to go through your family doctor to seek medical advice from a specialist in the cases that your problem is a common flue or a burn or just a scratch while you were on your bike gazing around.

In France, you will be asked to choose a family doctor: he’s actually the one you’ll see when you get sick or need medical advice. He’ll be your chosen physician. There are a lot of times that we see the family doctor from one generation to another. Who wouldn’t want someone to treat him the same way he was, when he was a child?

Usually, in France, you need to book an appointment with your doctor. You might have to wait a few before having your scheduled date with your family doctor, and sometimes a few months before having your appointment with a specialist. Some doctors may meet the patients without an appointment.

The doctor will almost always give you a prescription: it’s a list of medication you have to go and buy at the chemist. Be careful to follow your doctor’s or the chemist’s orders as to how much and how often you can take the medicine. Do not do anything on your own. It is one of the biggest mistakes that patients do.

If you need to see a doctor at the night, on a Sunday or during a bank holiday, you can go to the nearest ER, in a hospital or contact the « Maisons médicales de garde » which is actually an out-of-hours medical service.

Go the chemist :

There are some times when you can go to the chemist with or without a prescription. There are some types of medication that you can buy without a prescription. These times can vary from you having a head ache, a stomach ache, a fever, a small wound and some that you cannot buy without a prescription. The prescription will be given to you by your doctor and medicine will be, in most cases, repaid . You should also know that all drugs aren’t completely repaid.

Usually, chemists are open from 9am to 7pm from Tuesday till Friday. Some of them are open on Monday evenings too. But you should check their timetable on Internet or by calling them. A few of them are always open, even at night. If you need a medication during the night or on a bank holiday, you can look for a « pharmacie de garde » which are on-call pharmacies or duty pharmacies.

If you buy medicine from a duty pharmacy, you will have to pay a fee which will cost you 5 euros more or less.

Go to the ER:

During your stay in France, you might need to go to the ER. If you have a medical emergency, call the 15 (Samu / ambulance service) or the 18 (fire brigade). If you call from a mobile phone, call the 112 which is the European emergency number. You will be put in contact with a doctor who will advise you and, if need be, will ask you to go to the ER. In cases that you cannot go by yourself either because you are injured or for any other reason that prevents you from walking, an ambulance will be sent at the place you are even if you haven’t called 15 and only the emergency number.

As you clearly understood, it depends on the issue you are dealing with. Most people prefer to go to the ER straight ahead but this is useless because if you have a simple flue, you should better be advised by your doctor or your chemist. You will be given the same syrup and the same pills that make cough goes away without spending all of your night waiting at the ER. The specialist is not a common choice for the French as they have to wait a lot, but it is for sure the best option if you a have a specific problem and you want to be tested by an expert. Do not ever forget that the chemists who work in pharmacies are really educated and trained people and their statement is professional. They do not assume if you suffer from something or not. They guarantee that. Just trust them.