Ile de France

Medical Elective Report

April 2017

Reporter: Simon Lubbock, University of Nottingham

Contact at destination: Dr Nicolas Tabary

Year of visit: 2017

Country: France

Region: Ile-de-France

Institution: Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal Poissy-St-Germain-en-Laye (CHIPS)

Department: Anaesthetics

Work/study undertaken: I spent 6 weeks working with the Anaesthetic team between the two hospital sites. This involved a mixture of general surgery, orthopaedics, obstetrics, ENT, and endoscopy. I was primarily observing but did have ample chance to get involved with practical procedures (cannulating, in/extubation) and general management of the patients. I was also invited to MDTs and sat in plenty of clinics.

Towards the end of the placement, through some contacts, I was able to spend a day at the Institut Coeur Paris Centre (ICPC,, a private cardiology clinic in the 8ème arrondissement, learning echocardiography.

Description of destination: The area I worked in is west of Paris, just beyond Versailles. It is a suburb of Paris and although affluent still has plenty of pockets of deprivation, so I saw a real mix of patients. It was particularly striking how rural the area felt despite being just over 20 miles from Paris – I’m not sure the same could be said of London suburbs! It took 30-40 minutes to get into Paris via the RER train.

Were the local people friendly? Absolutely. They were all blown away that an Englishman could speak French, and were very intrigued by my presence, not to mention full of bewilderment about Brexit! I met quite a few English natives as well during my stay; the Lycée International de Saint-Germain-en-Laye is very prestigious and attracts a lot of expats to the area.

Was it safe and if not, why not? Yes, it was a very safe, comfortable area to be in. The only times I felt on edge were when I went into certain parts of Paris.

What did you do in your spare time? I happened to have carted my wife and 2 young children along with me so my free time was full of family walks, trips to the boulangerie and acquainting myself with French children’s literature. We went into Paris a few times to see the sights and also took 2 weekend trips away – one to La Baule on the Atlantic coast, and the other to Aix-en-Provence; both were full of sunshine and delicious French cuisine, comme d’habitude.

Is there anything you would particularly recommend others to do? If you’re stationed in Paris, go to Brittany – it has a particular culture set apart from the rest of France which I found especially charming. Otherwise, go to as many museums as possible and make the most of the beautiful French countryside.

Time of year and climate? March-April. We were extremely lucky with the weather and I actually got a bit of tan. It rained a bit but nowhere near the grizzly extent of the UK. This was confirmed when we arrived back home to sleet and hail – at the end of April!

Accommodation? I lived with my wife’s family.

Was it provided? Yes.

How did you get there? Eurostar St Pancras-Gare du Nord

Was the visit medically useful? Very much so. It reinforced a lot of the knowledge I already had and gave me plenty of opportunity to hone my practical skills. I would have liked to have had more opportunity to clerk & examine patients (anaesthetics wasn’t the best choice of speciality for this), but I feel my communication skills improved greatly and I have a renewed appreciation of the efficiency and evidence-based ethos of the NHS.

Did you enjoy your visit? Definitely. Being married to a Frenchwoman, with bilingual children, it is very much on our radar to move to France one distant day in the future. Therefore, for me this was a way to “trial” living & working in France. Although there a few aspects of French life that I find less than desirable (longer working days, convoluted and pedantic bureaucracy, lack of “Yorkshire Tea” in the shops), overall I felt that their style of life was much more balanced, egalitarian and family-friendly than here in the UK. I look forward to going back already.
Has it improved your French?
Yes. I am fluent but not bilingual, and benefitted a great deal from total immersion, particularly picking up slang and local expressions. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to talk medicine (probably thanks to going on the excellent AFMS medical French weekend!) and I actually improved the most from being constantly grilled about Brexit and my views on the French presidential election!

If you went back, would you do anything differently? Try to spend some time in general practice to get a fuller picture of the French medical system.

Overall cost?
Eurostar £250 return, other trains £100, petrol for commuting £150, food £250, leisure/tourism £400 = £1150

Any other useful information:
Get some practice in advance of listening to French spoken with strong accents from other countries – there were numerous Italian & eastern European doctors at the hospital with less than perfect French and I really struggled to understand them.