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Five essential words you need when speaking to a doctor in Denmark

'Akutmodtagelse' or Accident & Emergency is a useful Danish word to know in medical situations .
'Akutmodtagelse' or Accident & Emergency is a useful Danish word to know in medical situations . Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
If you are visiting your GP in Denmark or perhaps speaking to the on-call doctor, a few essential words will help you to converse effectively in Danish.

If Danish is your second language but you feel comfortable enough with it to use in official correspondences, knowing a few key technical words can enable you to put your existing proficiency to reliable use.

Communicating with doctors or other medical professionals is one such situation where you might need to add a few technical words to your existing conversational ability.

We’ve put together an outline of some of these words, their meanings and the context in which you might use them below. If there’s anything important you think we’ve missed, let us know.

Lægevagten 

Literally the ‘doctors’ shift’, the lægevagt is the line you call for non-emergency medical advice outside of your own doctor’s opening hours. It is staffed by vagtlæger, or on-call doctors.

Unlike the emergency telephone number, the number you call to reach a lægevagt varies depending on the region of Denmark in which you are located at the time of the call. For example, the number in Greater Copenhagen is 1813, while in Southern Denmark you’d dial 70 11 07 07.

The other lægevagt numbers in Denmark are 70 15 07 00 (Zealand); 70 11 31 31 (Central Jutland); 70 150 300 (North Jutland).

Skadestue/Akutmodtagelsen

 These two words are the equivalent of Accident & Emergency/Casualty in UK English or Emergency Room in US English.

Skadestue (literally, ‘injury room’) is a more old-fashioned term than akutmodtagelsen (‘acute reception’). You could hear wither conversationally, but are more likely to see the later on hospital websites or on signposts on site at hospitals.

Recept/håndkøb

Most relevant at pharmacies, medicines can be bought using a recept or prescription or as håndkøb, literally ‘hand purchased’ i.e. over the counter or without prescription.

If you’re asked about medications by a doctor, these words could come up. You might also need them when asking about how to pick up any medicines you’re advised or at the pharmacy itself.

Journal 

Patient records are usually referred to as a journal. The term is relatively easy to remember due to its diary-like connotations. You may hear medical professionals referring to checking your journal if you are communicating with regard to a longstanding or previous problem.

Women who have been pregnant in Denmark may be familiar with the slightly quirky but also charming term for maternity notes vandrejournal, literally ‘wandering journal’. Danish maternity notes are usually kept in a yellow envelope, which also makes them remarkable given the digitisation of almost all medical record keeping.

Betændelse 

When describing symptoms or an injury, or possible causes of your medical problem, you may need to use or hear the word betændelse (inflammation or infection) or betændt (inflamed or infected).

It’s important to know the nuanced meaning of this word so that you can understand how it’s being used in the context of what is being said. For example, lungebetændelse literally means ‘lung infection’ but is a common word for pneumonia. But you may also have a betændt or swollen, inflamed mouth after an operation to remove a wisdom tooth, and need a recept for antibiotika (antibiotics) to keep infection at bay.

Doctors may also use the word infektion for infection. This is easier for Anglophones because of its similarity to the English word. Swelling or inflammation can also be referred to as hævelse.


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