Reporter: Emily Orr (5th year King’s College London) Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact at Destination: Roland Strasser
Year of Visit: 2011
Institution: Hopitaux Univeistaires Geneve
Department: Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Work/ Study undertaken: The placement was very well organized. I was given a timetable on my arrival which was varied and let me get experience in clinics, theatres, urgences and the birth centre. As I did my placement in August there were only 2 other students in my department so I was given a lot of time by the doctors. Most days I was attached to an ‘interne’ who is the young doctor in training for the specialty and I helped with their duties. In clinics I was often allowed to take the history and perform the ultrasounds myself and because of the nature of the private healthcare in Switzerland it seemed almost every patient who came to the gynae clinic got an ultrasound so I got really good at that. In theatres, they rely on having a student there to assist so I got to scrub in and help out a lot.
I found the doctors all very welcoming and patient with me as sometimes I struggled with my French. Most doctors speak good English so it was never a problem if I didn’t understand something, although I would say it is important to be able to speak quite well in order to take part in clinics etc..
As Geneva is quite an international city there is a very varied population. It was normal for the languages used in consultations to swap between French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
My days normally started at 8am with a meeting for all the department, I normally had 1-2 hours for lunch in the amazing roof top terrace with views over the lake and then afternoon sessions ran until about 5pm.
Overall I was impressed by the organization of my stage. The doctors were friendly and used to teaching.
Description of Destination: Geneva. A small city but breathtakingly beautiful city. The city wraps around Lac Leman with the famous fountain spurting out in the middle and in the background are the Swiss Mountains. The city is home to large international companies and is therefore full of smart hotels, shops and restaurants. However you can still find small quirky areas and old cobbled streets in the old town. It is very clean with lots of parks and open spaces to enjoy. All the public places have wireless connection so you can sit in a park overlooking the lake and be on your laptop working. There is an efficient tram system and plentiful bikes around the city to hire. Buses and trains are easy to get to surrounding hills and countryside.
Were locals friendly? Yes, I thought so. I was told before I left that Swiss people are quite boring and unfriendly but I certainly did not find this. You will meet people from all over the world in Geneva though as it is home to many international organizations.
Was it safe? I felt very safe. The public transport stopped quite early 12:00-1:00am so it is necessary to make sure you know how you are going to et home. Taxi’s are extremely expensive
What did you do in your spare time? Fete de Geneve (1st 2 weeks of August) lots of free concerts, theatre, food stalls by the lake, finished off with an incredible fireworks display. Walking in mountains Chamonix, Gruyere, trip to Zurich and Bern, Swimming in lake, cycle ride through vineyards, visits to CERN, United nations, clock museum, red cross museum, enjoying good ice creams, wondering around the old city and just enjoying the weather in one of the many parks.
Time of year and climate? August. I had lovely weather, it was sunny and dry for most of the month. I had heard from students staying in July that it had rained a lot so I may have been lucky. Being close to the mountains the weather is less predictable than being further south.
Accommodation? I stayed in a n apartment in Carouge the old Italian district 15 mis walk to the hospital. My room was a room vacated by one of the local medical students who was away during the summer. This was organized for me through SWIMSA exchanges the Swiss medical student exchange programme. I was lucky as accommodation in Geneva is not easy to find and is extremely expensive.
How did I get there? Bristol to Geneva Easy Jet
Medically useful? For hands on experience it was very good, as I was allowed to scrub in a lot in theatre and use the ultrasound machines. The cases I saw are similar to UK. History taking and management of patients depended on which doctor was supervising me as some were more helpful than others and also would depend on language barrier.
French Improved? Enormously. First few days I could not follow the meetings or simple conversations by the end I could keep up and even take my own consultations. Useful to have a French/medical dictionary to hand as many of the medical terms are actually different. I had only done A-level French and one course at Uni before I arrived. It was tough but if you are willing to make and effort you can get by and improve a lot!
Overall Cost? Flights =£100, Accommodation = £500 Food and leisure = £250
Contact at destination
Year of visit: 2001
Institution: Hopital de la Tour
Department: Accident and Emergency
Work / Study undertaken: A&E Medicine, And SOS Medecin
Description of destination
Geneva is certainly a beautiful city. Apart from the aesthetic aspects and the ‘internationality’ of the city, its very easy to get around with its wonderfully efficient bus service – I don’t think I waited more than 3 minutes for a bus!
Were the local people friendly?
Extremely. They were more than happy to help out when you’r completely and utterly lost!
Did you feel safe and if not why not?
Yes, I very safe city.
What did you do in your spare time ?
My spare time consisted mainly of the weekday evenings, and the weekends. Switzerland is served by a very efficient transport net and hence most of the country could be experienced in the 7 weekends I was there. As for the evenings after work, reading in the park overlooking the famous fountain was most relaxing indeed.
Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do?
Go for a run by the lake and try and keep up with the rowing boats! And of course do plenty of sightseeing – Geneve is right in the heart of Europe and serves as an excellent base. On the medico-cultural side of things, SOS Medecin is great way to see how the Genevois live.
What was the climate like?
Quite variable during March and April, but much more sunny weather than in England!
What was your accommodation like?
Quite good, perhaps as I was living with a friend.
Was it provided?
If not who arranged it?
I was living with a friend there.
How much did it cost?
Did you enjoy your visit?
Very much indeed.
Did you find it useful medically?
I certainly did learn a lot of A&E. This is something I hadn’t yet been exposed to back home. I managed to see a wide range of conditions from the trivial ‘I’ve cut myself shaving’ to the univerally common MI, to the rare abdominal pain which turns out to be Behcet’s syndrome.
Has it improved your french?
This certainly was the case. I even learnt that the Swiss had a few variations on the language – noinante for ninety.
How has it increased your knowledge of French culture?
Working in a French environment and socialising in this group really did give a new slant on the culture. SOS Medecin was a great way to see how people lived – from the CHF 45million estate to the not so rich appartments, to the farmhouses on the city’s outskirts.
If you went back would you do anything differently?
No regrets whatsoever!
How did you get there?
By air – many airlines get you there – Swiss air and Easy Jet are some of them
What was the approximate total cost?
Is there any other information that you think may be useful?
If you’re a student, make sure to take an ISIC card – everything is much cheaper – a swim at the local pool was only CHF 2.