Why is it so hard to work abroad?BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7556.1519 (Published 22 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1519
All rapid responses
I agree with Dr Villanueva that it is a big jump to start work in a
foreign country with a new language, different cultural ethoses and a
different healthcare set up.
I am currently on a European SHO exchange programme in Switzerland.
It was extremely hard work for the first couple of months, I arrived with
a basic knowledge of German and found out on my first day that I was to
work on a very busy general medical ward average a twelve hour day, five
days a week with on average two weekends off a month. My average patient
list consisting of French and Swiss German speakers. It was a major shock
to the system and I found myself struggling to communicate with my
patients, members of staff and everything took three times as long when
compared to the UK (discharge summaries even longer!), attributable to my
lack of proficiency in medical German / French . Alot of doctors I have
met have also studied in Spain / France and have picked up the language as
they went along.
Luckily I had an Unterassitent (equivalent of a 5th year medical
student who is payed a token salairy) who spoke English and was up to
speed on how everything worked and eased my transition into working as a
On the upside the medical teaching (especially cardiology) I have had
is first rate, I have never had access to so many new tests
(procalcitonin, NT-BNP, cystatin C etc) or novel ways of treating patients
and I get a weeks off every month to compensate for the ungoldly hours!
Working abroad is definitely worth the challange but I think that 6
months is about enough for me!
Competing interests: No competing interests