Lyon 2018

Reporter:Samuel Jay (5thyear student at Manchester)

Contact at Destination:Organised through UoM, the international mobility officer at Lyon Est is Solange Brandolese:

Year of Visit:February – May 2018



Institution: Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1

Work/ Study undertaken:

Neurogeriatrics, Charpennes:

My first placement consisted of four weeks spent on the neurogeriatrics ward at Charpennes hospital. Charpennes is a specialised geriatrics hospital located towards the north of the city, technically just within the neighbouring municipality of Villeurbanne. Charpennes is well served by public transport, on both the A and B metro lines as well as the T1 tram line, making it easy to get to from the majority of the city.

The neurogeriatrics service itself is an 18 bed unit that accepts patients who have had a stroke in the past few days in order to complete their investigatory ‘bilan’ and to medically optimise them before transfer to a rehab centre. Most patients were more or less medically fit and required a stay of around a week, however there were always a few highly complex patients who required much more involved care.

The working day was very similar to that of a UK medical ward with a ward round in the morning and jobs/clerking of admission in the afternoon. Once we were familiar with the workings of the ward the assistant was happy to let us externs see the simpler patients ourselves on the morning ward round, which allowed me to quickly improve my working French.

Neurology, Hoptial Neurologique :

My second placement was on the neuroinflammatory ward at the neurology hospital, which principally treats multiple sclerosis. The Hopital Neurologique is part of the large Groupement Hospitalier Est complex which to the east of the city, technically in the commune of Bron. It is relatively easy to get to by public transport, but certainly more of a hassle than my previous placement in Charpennes. The hospitals in the Groupement are currently only served by a bus from Grange Blanche, where the medical school is located, but the service is regular and only takes 10 minutes. Construction of a tram line to the hospital is currently underway however, and should be completed by the end of 2018.

The neuroinflammatory service mainly takes admissions for investigation of new symptoms and known MS sufferers for treatment of flares. The patient load is quite varied with patients at all stages of their diseases as well as numerous very rare conditions and diagnostic mysteries.

Paediatric nephrology, Hopital Femme Mere Enfant (HFME):

My final placement was on the paediatric nephrology, rheumatology, and dermatology service at HFME, part of the Groupement Hospitalier Est. I am interested in paediatrics as a future career and chose the placement in order to get more exposure, as well as to see how the system works in France. I put the placement last as I thought it would be the most challenging from a French perspective, which proved to be both true and false. On one hand children use a simpler sentence structure than adults and often speak at a slower pace, making them easier to understand. However, a different vocabulary is needed to seem natural with them and gaining the confidence of a shy toddler can be extremely difficult as a non-native speaker.

Description of Destination:

Lyon is located in the central-east part of France not far from the alps, at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. If you include its large metropolitan area it is France’s second largest city, including a large student population of 150,000 split across three main universities. The city is split into three main areas by the rivers that pass through it. To the west is Vieux Lyon, a district of ancient winding streets filled with traditional Lyonnaise ‘Bouchon’ restaurants and one of the principal tourist hotspots of the city. Within the district are many semi-hidden passageways called ‘traboules’ which generally contain beautiful architecture and were historically used as shortcuts to the river and then, later, resistance smuggling and escape routes during the city’s Nazi occupation. These can be difficult to find but are well worth keeping your eyes peeled for. Between the two rivers is the Presqu’ile area extending from Hotel de Ville in the north to Confluences in the south. The northern part of the area is full of grand architecture, museums, and shops, while the southern Confluences area is a regenerated docklands area. To the east of the Rhone is the main working and residential bulk of the city, including the majority of the hospitals. It is also worth pointing out the bohemian Croix-Rousse area on the hill above Presqu’ile, which is full of independent cafes and bars, traboules, fresques, and many panoramic views of the city.

Were locals friendly?

French medical students tend to study much more than we do in the UK and are often unavailable for socialising outside of hospital time. In my experience they were all lovely though, as were all of the other locals I encountered. The city is also home to a large Erasmus population, allowing you to socialise with people from all over europe.

Was it safe?

As safe as any other major European city: be careful in certain areas in the small hours of the morning but otherwise expect no trouble.

What did you do in your spare time?

In terms of things to do in the city, Lyon has plenty. As I have described above there are several distinct areas of the city to explore, full of great architecture and bars/restaurants. The city is also home to some great museums: the unbelievably cheap Carte Musees (€7) gets you unlimited entry to 6 museums, including the Musee de Beaux Arts which has a great collection. Outside of this card there is also the Musee de Confluence which is huge, free for under-25s, and perfect for a rainy day. The Musee de Cinema is also worth a visit if you like films and is in an amazing old building in Vieux Lyon. Lyon was the birthplace of cinema and there are often interesting films being shown across the city with Q&As afterwards with the directors.

Lyon is widely considered the gastronomical capital of France (some would expand that further afield) and the city is packed with amazing restaurants. The traditional ‘bouchons’ of Vieux Lyon are your best bet for local cuisine, although a bit pricey, alongside the massive Brasserie Georges near Perrache. Away from haute-cuisine, the city is also home to the confusingly named ‘tacos’, which is a local invention somewhat like a cross between greek gyros with a fajita. The city is packed with bars to discover and the nightlife generally has a really friendly atmosphere. Once the weather gets warmer, huge numbers of people flock to the banks of the rivers for a few verres, often accompanied by a makeshift cheese board. Finally, if you are a fan of electronic music the Nuits Sonores festival in May is a must. Aside from the official (and rather expensive) events, there are countless free events across the city in some very picturesque settings with great DJs.

Time of year and climate?

From the fierce cold of the worst winter on record (down to –8 some mornings) to a month-long heat wave in April/May (~28 degrees).


I personally decided to opt for CROUS student halls due to their low cost (~€260pcm for an en suite) and ease of organisation. However, the University of Manchester as a relationship with Lyon 1 so I don’t know how easy this would be to organise from other institutions.

How did I get there?

Flight from London to Lyon.  For getting to and from the airport, I would recommend booking the Rhoneexpress online in advance or get a BlaBlacar for even cheaper.

Medically useful?

It was certainly very informative to observe the differences in culture between the NHS and France, as well as slightly different was of organising which will give me a new perspective going into my future career.

The culture and environment on the wards is far better than in the NHS. There is a real team spirit that I have rarely noted in the UK, with better continuity of team members and a much flatter hierarchy. The medical team and medical students all take lunch together for at least half an hour, usually more, in the ‘self’ (canteen) which is a really good way to get to know eachother. The downside to the culture is the complete acceptance of very long working hours, 10-12 hour days are very much the norm in all specialities. This in part seems to be due to an inefficiency that I couldn’t put my finger on for the whole time I was there, for some reason most clerical tasks seem to take twice as they would in the UK. Coupled with frequent 24h on-calls, I am unsure how interns in France are expected to have a social life or interests outside of medicine.

French Improved?

Absolutely. I began the placement with a relatively good level of French (C1) but still had difficulty following fast conversation on the wards and asking patients more complex questions. Over the course of the placement my oral comprehension improved massively, allowing me to follow all conversations without too much difficulty. I also was able to confidently clerk patients alone by the end, with only the occasional need to ask clarification.

More importantly I think is the familiar language and sentence structure that you pick up when socialising. You can only really get to know a culture through immersion and appreciation of its jokes, puns, and references.