Ukrainian pediatrician treats children in Slovakia through UNICEF-supported programme

When she arrived in Slovakia, Tatiana was not able to practice medicine. Now, she has become a cornerstone of her community by treating its children.

Ukrainian pediatrician Tatiana sits behind the desk at her ambulatory.
UNICEF/Le Lijour
28 February 2024

Tatiana leans over her young patient, stethoscope in hand. A couple of deep inhales and exhales feebly break the silence of the blue-walled ambulatory. Tatiana, on the contrary, is immersed in the rhythm of the child’s little heart. 

Back in Ukraine, Tatiana worked as an Otorhinolaryngologist – a doctor that mainly deals with the head and neck. With the war escalating, her and her family fled to a small city near Uzhhorod, Ukraine, where, for a year, she volunteered as a doctor to treat those impacted by violence.  

Tatiana, a Ukrainian pediatrician, examines her young patient with a stethoscope.
UNICEF/Le Lijour

A win-win solution 

Once in Slovakia, Tatiana found herself jobless. She never imagined she could be anything else than a doctor, which had been her passion and profession for over 20 years. One day, she visited the UNICEF-supported Rovniankova clinic in Bratislava and met Dr. Zuzana Nagyova, a head pediatrician in a small clinic in Dunajská Streda. “Zuzana Nagyova, together with UNICEF, helped me find a job,” she recounts. 

In fact, in March 2023, UNICEF, the Slovak Ministry of Health and the Slovak Pediatric Association, with the financial support of the Government of France and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the US Government, launched a new programme to integrate 30 Ukrainian doctors in the Slovak health system.  

Tatiana, a Ukrainian pediatrician, speaks to a mom of her patient.
UNICEF/Le Lijour

The integration of Ukrainian pediatricians is a win-win solution. It helps alleviate the additional pressure created by the refugee crisis on an already over-stretched Slovak health system while improving access to healthcare for both Slovak and Ukrainian young patients. 

This is done through support to Slovak language learning (including for medical terminology) so that Ukrainian doctors can pass the required exams and to a paid 18-month internship for Ukrainian pediatricians under the supervision of a senior Slovak doctor.

“I am happy, and my heart is full” 

Thanks to the programme, Tatiana can now be herself again. She works in Dunajská Streda with the very person who helped her find a job, Zuzana Nagyova. “When the Ukrainian patients discovered there was a Ukrainian doctor, they were glad,” explains Tatiana, “it was difficult for them to see Slovak doctors and to understand their questions.” 

Tatiana, a Ukrainian pediatrician, and Zuzana, her senior Slovak supervisor, in their ambulatory.
Tatiana and doctor Zuzana Nagyova.

The first days at the clinic, when Tatiana couldn’t understand much Slovak, weren’t easy. “We learned how to cooperate [with the nurse]. But one year back, it was very difficult. I did not understand what she said, and she didn’t understand what I said.” 

Now Tatiana is full of joy. “The first time I examined a patient in Slovakia, I felt good. As the patient came and saw a Ukrainian doctor, they felt calm and knew everything would be fine,” she continues. 

“When I go to work, I am calm, happy and my heart is full. And that’s very important, both for me and for my patients,” she concludes. 

A girl stands in front of her mom in Tatiana's ambulatory.

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