An international work exchange: better than a midlife crisisBMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7174.1709 (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1709
- Douglas T Bridge, palliative care physiciana,
- James Gilbert, consultant in palliative medicineb
- Royal Perth Hospital, Box X2213, GPO Perth, Western Australia 6001
- Exeter and District Hospice, Exeter EX2 5JJ
The Australian initiative
Several years ago my wife and I began to reflect on the delightful possibility of an extended period in another country. The concept of a sabbatical year is well recognised,1—3 and has been recommended in the BMJ as a means of promoting personal development for general practitioners whose professional lives are stagnating.4 We decided to attempt a variation: a job swap in which we also exchanged houses and cars with a compatible colleague. But how do you find a compatible colleague in a distant land? I started by writing to the (British) Association for Palliative Medicine, who published my proposal in their twice-yearly newsletter. One of the respondents was Jim Gilbert, from Exeter, who seemed quite keen to explore my wild proposal. He was, like me, a consultant in palliative medicine, his curriculum vitae was impressive, and his work sounded interesting. He had an appealing sense of humour: “We would, of course, extract signed agreements from Wilf (aged 4) and Tilly (18 months) not to destroy your house!”
During a 1 hour telephone call we worked through all the significant issues we could think of, and began the long process of establishing a curiously intimate friendship, considering it began with an advertisement!
We agreed to a 4 month working segment, but which months? The Bridge family wanted to enjoy a British summer and escape before the thermometer plunged below zero. The Gilberts wanted to experience an Australian spring, and escape before temperatures reached the range where small children can …
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