The European Studies option was one of the first things that drew me to the Medicine course here at Manchester. To be granted the opportunity to continue my love affair with languages, as well as to live and work abroad as a doctor was then – as it is today – a unique part of the package.
A little under five years on, I am about to sit my final exams and move to Paris for what will effectively be my first job as a junior doctor.
Fitting European Studies into my schedule
Keeping my commitment to the programme over the course of the demands of the degree has been far from easy. Once clinical years began, finding the time to practice and revise for French seemed impossible.
During the winter exam period, in particular, the idea of sitting through hours of lessons while it was dark and cold outside was challenging. Nevertheless, the coverage of medical topics in our French lessons did serve as some sort of revision – or at least we could convince ourselves as much.
Then, just as we emerged from the winter into the brighter months, those of us seeking a more continental definition of ‘sunshine’ started sending out letters to hospitals and doctors in France in search for a summer ‘stage’ – a glimpse of life as an ‘interne’, and of the purpose (and reward) of the hard work we had endured to date.
Gaining work experience in France
My ‘stage’ took me to Marseille in the south of France. A friend and I managed to arrange placements at the same hospital and, more importantly, we timed our trip to coincide with the Euros. After all, it was important to fully immerse ourselves into the French state of mind and, as such, embracing the national love of football became a necessary part of our remit.
On a more serious note, the work at the hospital did wonders for both my medical knowledge and my language. I split my time between Paediatric Emergencies and Paediatric Orthopaedics. On a typical day, I would spend the morning in theatre and the afternoon in A&E, although I’d always make it out in time to moonlight as a tourist and catch a few hours of sunshine and coffee in the city.
Notably, the medical students in France are treated rather differently – in exchange for a small stipend, they are expected to work entire shifts and carry out basic (and not so basic) procedures such as suturing and lumbar punctures, and are fully integrated into the wider hierarchy of the medical team.
For four weeks, or at least by the end, I became one of them. I could confidently clerk patients, was suturing comfortably on a daily basis and taking part vociferously in clinical meetings.
Paris Des Cartes is next on the agenda for me, where I will be completing placements in Paediatric General Surgery and Anaesthetics. I’d like to pursue Paediatric Surgery one day, and having the opportunity to see how things are done and learn the nuances of surgical procedure overseas is something I am confident will help me stand out when I come to make my training applications.
Of course, being a well-rounded and interesting individual is important too – so for that, I look forward to travelling around France and to wider Europe from Paris, and sampling as many patisseries as I physically can in four months!