Dr. Michelle Auth
Krankenhaus Köln-Merheim, Kliniken der Stadt Köln, Germany
“What did you do the last three months?”
This is a question I got asked several times in the last few weeks.
My answer: I learned. I learned all day.
Isn’t that a dream come true?
Even having finished my training in Germany about a year ago, I always thought there was so much more to learn: beyond my home hospital’s borders and significantly beyond Germany’s borders. Naturally, therefore, I was always attracted to the thought of time working outside of Germany, and I was and still am deeply thankful that the ESAIC awarded me this opportunity.
I studied and trained in a system where it is uncommon to move abroad to do fellowships in different healthcare systems. Under certain circumstances, you might even complete your training in only one hospital.
Now coming to Ireland, I got to know a society with a great history of immigration and emigration. Joining the team of Cork University Hospital showed me how society can benefit from this fact.
Nowadays, it is standard for Irish doctors to do fellowships worldwide after finishing their training. Working at Cork University Hospital meant me to work with and learn from people trained all over the world: from Australia, over Pakistan to Canada. I learned approaches to Anesthesia people commonly use at the other end of the world. I even learned techniques I had never even heard of before. That was definitely what I hoped for when I first applied for this program, but the reality exceeded these hopes by far.
I was warmly welcomed by all the staff of Cork University Hospital. Especially Dr Gabriella Iohom made it her goal to make my exchange (and that of others before me) as easy, comfortable and enjoyable as possible. She was accommodating with every aspect of my stay in Cork.
And to be honest, it wasn’t just packing my things and getting on a flight; there was a lot of administrative work to do beforehand. But it paid off. From day one, I felt as part of the team and, most importantly, I could “get my hands on”. This program isn’t just about observing but about doing things and making the most of your visit.
One of my biggest concerns before arriving in Cork was working in my second language, missing words for specific situations or having an accent. However, those worries proved to be unnecessary. The warm and friendly working atmosphere always gave me space to ask questions (and I did ask many questions) and double-check if there were any doubts. And this also was a valuable lesson to learn. You need to communicate clearly and avoid regional sayings and abbreviations, which is beneficial if you work in an environment where emergencies are common, and misunderstandings might be fatal.
But what else do I want to take back to Germany and my home hospital?
I want to encourage people to broaden their medical and their horizons by working abroad. Living in the European Union, we have this unique chance to move back and forth across borders as if they didn’t exist. The experiences I was able to have in Ireland, especially at Cork University Hospital, will definitely make me a better doctor. I was forced to think outside the box and consider even the slightest differences. The simplest examples are all the different measuring units we use in Germany, leading to a simple task like checking some lab results suddenly becoming a mathematical masterpiece.
Leaving all those personnel developments aside, I learned numerous concrete things. First, I could attend a weekly Echo course as part of my cardiothoracic rotation. Here I learned in a step-by-step and structured way how to obtain a complete Echo study (and again, Dr Kelly brought this knowledge from Boston, USA, where he worked for a while).
I spent the second part of my stay in the Block Room, where numerous peripheral and neuraxial nerve blocks are performed daily. The sheer number and daily repetition of those techniques helped develop my skills, but the structured and expert way those blocks are performed and taught here was a unique experience.
In the end, I want to say thank you to everyone for welcoming me to CUH so warmly. Special thanks to Dr Gabriella Iohom, who is passionate about organising this programme at CUH.
And it shouldn’t be unmentioned that you aren’t just sent away by the ESAIC, but they care about you having the best experience possible. So, therefore, a big thank you to Els Sung for always being available and helpful throughout my exchange.