Reporter: Ruth Dodwell (3rd Year Liverpool Medical Student) firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact at Destination: Professor of Neonatology
Year of Visit: 2007
Region: Lyon, Rhône-Alpes region
Institution: L’hôpital Edouard Herriot
Department: Paediatrics (3 weeks) and Neonates (2 weeks)
Work/ Study undertaken: In Paediatrics I was expected to examine children, read their notes and go on ward rounds. Besides this I found plenty of opportunities to play with the children. In Neonates I did the same as the French medical students and was in charge of 4 babies. Each day I examined the babies and then prescribed their feeds and medication. These were checked on the daily ward round and we were asked many questions. Each afternoon I saw follow-up consultations with a variety of doctors.
Description of Destination: Lyon is the second largest city in France and the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region in the East of France. It is situated where the Rhône and Saône rivers join. Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France. My favourite speciality was “Tuiles”. These are an almond biscuit shaped like old tiles (or a large pringle!) These were then coated with a variety of delicious toppings from roasted nuts to dark mint chocolate!
Were locals friendly? Yes; they loved the fact I really made an effort to speak their language.
Was it safe?I never felt threatened. I just needed to take the same precautions as I would in any big city, for example I was always aware of my bag and never went anywhere by myself at night.
What did you do in your spare time? Lyon is a fantastic city to explore. They have a system called “velo-v” which enables you to borrow a bike from a station and drop it off at another within half an hour for only 1 euro a week! This was amazing because I could easily and cheaply visit Lyon. I also enjoyed using Lyons 50 metre outdoor swimming pool besides the river Rhône and running around the “Parc Tête D’Or”. The family I stayed with were very friendly. I spent much time chatting, cooking dinner, going shopping and generally joining in with family life. I particularly enjoyed working with their eldest daughter who was a student midwife. We spent several hours reading English articles that she needed to summarise in French. This was brilliant for both of us as we struggled to understand and explain them across the language barrier. We got on so well that I’ve even been invited to her wedding next summer!
Time of year and climate? June-July. I found it hot and certainly needed a fan in my room at night. The French however were moaning about the bad weather this year. I always needed an umbrella with me.
Accommodation? I stayed with the Professor of Neonatology, his wife, who was also a consultant paediatrician and their 3 children (23, 20 and 17).
How did I get there? I flew from London Stansted to Lyon with Easy-Jet.
Medically useful? I learnt a lot from this elective. For example, in paediatrics I saw several children with liver transplants. Most of them had received part of a liver from a living parent. Several children had rare metabolic diseases. These were mainly due to consanguinity; something I have never really thought about asking in a history! During neonates I was shown how to thoroughly examine a newborn baby. Particular emphasis was placed on the different reflexes present such as the Moro, suckling, rooting and stepping reflexes.
French Improved? I learnt a great deal of medical vocabulary whilst in hospital. By the end I was following the ward round well enough to be able to answer some of the questions and be in charge of noting the changes in feeds. I also became much more confident in conversational French from the many hours I spent talking to the family.
Overall Cost? About £400 for travel and food.
Year of visit: 2003
I worked in the Rheumatology Service of the Hôpital Lyon Sud in the firm of Prof. Vignon, a colleague of Prof. Doherty, professor of Rheumatology in Nottingham.. I had arranged to observe the work in the department which involved sitting in on clinics, watching the osteopath at work, going on ward rounds and learning about treatments such as traction, lumbar punctures and densitometry. I could have done more such as performing lumbar punctures, clerking patients etc. but no-one seemed to mind that I didn’t. French medical students only work in the mornings so I followed suit. I took a fair amount of days off, travelling around and they really didn’t mind that either. It was an entertaining department to be in and I learnt a fair bit of Rheumatology as well as seeing some interesting patients. Perhaps 5 weeks is too long to spend in one department.
Lyon is a beautiful city, well situated for the South and Paris (both 2 hours by TGV) as well as the Alps. You can reach Geneva in less than two hours by train. It also has a reputation for food and you can eat remarkably well for very little. The city centre is crammed full of bars. French medical students like their English counterparts enjoy a good night out: cheap alcohol, pissed dancing and stripping-off. The Lyonnais are friendly: people come up and talk to you in the street. You will get more from the city if you go with someone else – there is only so much you can do on your own.
My French was about A-level standard before I arrived. You can get away with a much lower standard. All doctors, most medical students and some patients speak English and your standard WILL improve.
Plan Ahead. Accommodation is very expensive and difficult to find. There is a youth hostel which is cheap but you’ll be sharing with other people. The centre international de sejour offers cheap rooms (30 € ) and food (evening meal ~6 € ) and is close to the centre of town. Begin by contacing the CROUS, a student accommodation service. Don’t bother writing or emailing but ring them up. They are useless but will send you a list of some contacts. You may want to lodge with a French student – which I did for a fortnight – it’s much much easier to organise this once you’re there as you’ll have an idea of where you want to be and who you want to live with.
Lyon has a small metro system and good bus links. The hospital is served by 2 bus links from the city of town. Buses aren’t too regular (~2 per hour) and most French students use their own cars to get to the hospital.
Lyon was experiencing a heatwave (30°C) with weather that they usually get in the Summer so be prepared to get a suntan. But equally, be prepared to be rained on.