Education And Debate

An international work exchange: better than a midlife crisis

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7174.1709 (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1709
  1. Douglas T Bridge, palliative care physiciana,
  2. James Gilbert, consultant in palliative medicineb
  1. Royal Perth Hospital, Box X2213, GPO Perth, Western Australia 6001
  2. 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,13 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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