I am currently on exchange in Geneva and am already half way through my month-long placement in general internal medicine. It’s been fun-filled, eye-opening, and all-around fantastic two weeks.
I was a little nervous when I showed up on the first day of my placement and found out they were expecting a 6th year medical student (here in Switzerland medical school is 6 years), but so far I have learned so much and it has surpassed all of my expectations. My unit team on 6-EL consists of an attending and two residents with whom I work very closely. My attending is one of the best that I’ve encountered, both from a clinical and teaching perspective, and I couldn’t have asked for kinder or more patient residents to supervise me. I work mostly under the supervision of one resident, Alyssa, who is in her 3rd year of residency.
Since my placement is completely in French, it has been a steep learning curve. Although I am fluent in the language, I was not familiar with much of the medical terminology in French. That being said, I am learning more and more everyday, and I hope that this will allow me to eventually better serve the Francophone community back in Saskatchewan.
I usually start my workday at 9am when we round on all of our patients (with the nurses as well). This usually takes up most of the morning as our patients are unfortunately very sick. If the morning goes well, we usually have time to discuss our patients with our attending before heading for lunch.
The afternoons are less predictable, as they depend more on what came up during morning rounds and any new admissions that we receive. No matter what comes up (and something always does!), we usually don’t have a spare moment on any afternoon. Conducting admissions has been the best learning experience for me as I am responsible for obtaining a full history, completing a physical exam, formulating a list of ‘problems’ and differential diagnoses, and presenting to the attending. Once all of my admissions are done I usually get to go home between 5 - 6pm (of course the residents stay much later than I do). I spend the evenings exploring Geneva and on weekends I leave the city to visit other parts of the country (more to come in a separate blog post).
Since I have never completed a placement in a hospital before, there have been many ‘firsts’ for me, which has been both exhilarating and rewarding. I am also not able to fully compare my experience here in Switzerland to the Canadian context. That will have to wait until clerkship I suppose! In the mean time, I thought I would share some of the highlights and interesting differences I have picked up on thus far.
Highlights of my placement so far: assisting on two thoracenteses, drawing blood for an ABG analysis, and doing my first ever patient admission from start to finish (and many more subsequently!).
Most challenging aspect: learning medical terminology in French while also navigating the diversity of languages spoken by our patients. Geneva is a very ethnically diverse city, and so many of our patients speak languages other than French, including Serbian, Italian, Greek, German, and Russian among others. Advanced communication takes on a whole new meaning when neither the patient or physician/nurse speak the same language.
Most surprising aspect: doctors, medical students, and residents are allowed to wear casual clothes here – including jeans (and many do so frequently), but everyone must wear their white coats at all times. The hospital here also has freshly squeezed orange juice vending machines (yes, the oranges are squeezed right in front of your eyes). Something I think the Saskatoon Health Region should definitely invest in! #preventativemedicine
Favourite thing about Switzerland: the scenery here is unbelievably stunning, the people are incredibly kind, and the cheese & chocolate are delicious!
The Geneva University Hospital where I am spending the month in general internal medicine.
My unit floor and a moment of calm in the hallway
Exploring Parc de la Grange (a public park in Geneva) one evening
Assisting on my very first thoracentesis!
The very first time I drew blood by myself and the resulting ABG analysis results
A sneak peak at the hospital cafeteria - not pictured are the extra large macarons that I have yet to try!
Just around the corner from my apartment in Geneva