Reporter: Robyn Hughes. Medical student. University of Liverpool

Year: 2005

Country: France

Region: Loiret

Institution: CHR d’Orléans, Hôpital de la Source, 45067 Orléans

Contact: Dr Patrick MARTIN, Chef de service

Department: Urgences

Work/study undertaken

When I arrived, Dr Martin basically asked me what I wanted to do during my time there. The hospital I was at doesn’t routinely take medical students so I was a bit of a novelty. I started off shadowing the internes and doing consultations with them so they could assess whether I could see patients alone. I then saw simple cases alone and presented to one of the internes or PH (practicien hospitalier). I would then order tests and Xrays and get them countersigned. I did write in the notes but only when there was enough time for someone to help me as it is quite hard!

I was quite useful whilst I was there as we had lots of tourists who spoke English so I did a fair bit of translating.

I did lots of things for the first time in France. I plastered arms and ankles, cannulated, passed NG tubes and was allowed to suture (eventually on my own). I did wimp out on the chance to do an LP though!

I spent 3 days with the SAMU/SMUR, both in the call centre seeing how they sort the calls out, and out with the doctors. I went out on calls in the ambulances and fast response vehicles and even got a trip out in the helicopter!

Description of service/department

The Urgences just caters for adults over 15. It is in the regional hospital so accepts transfers from around the area. Like any similar department there were times when it was manic and others when it was much quieter but I think you need both to learn a lot. The department is split into medical and surgical emergencies.

Description of destination

Orléans is a beautiful town. It is about an hour south of Paris by train and has a tram that goes from north to south through the town.

Were the local people friendly?

All of the hospital staff were very welcoming. By the end of my time there doctors were coming to find me if there were interesting signs and nurses if there were cannulae to be done. I also got invited to several people’s houses for meals so that I wasn’t alone in the evenings.

Did you feel safe and if not why not?

Orléans generally feels a safe place. There was always someone prepared to walk me to the tram stop if I left after dark as the hospital grounds were quite dark and, like many hospitals, it is not in the nicest of neighbourhoods.

What did you do in your spare time?

I visited Orléans town, went to the cinema etc. The internes invited me to barbecues, parties and even the urgences vs pompiers volleyball match (in which I had to play!). I visited the Loire valley, the chateaux at Clos Lucé, Amboise and Chenonceaux, the towns of Blois and Tours. I even went up to Paris for the 14 Juillet parade on the Champs Elysées. (Not really to be recommended – you have to be there incredibly early and take a step ladder to be able to see much – it is better on the TV!)

Is there anything you would particularly recommend others to do?

If you are in France on the 21st of June then the Fête de la Musique is great fun. It gets bigger every year and every town has free concerts and bands out in the street until the wee small hours.

What time of year were you there? What was the climate like?

I went in June/July. It was 35°C for the first week or two, which made the travelling quite uncomfortable. It cooled off a bit after that but was never cold.

What was your accommodation like?

I stayed in a studio apartment owned by the CROUS. It wasn’t a problem to organise as I went at the end of the academic year so most of the students were vacating their rooms. I rang the CROUS a couple of months before I went and as it was an official stage I was eligible for university accommodation. It was good because the university in Orléans is next to the hospital so I was only 3 tram stops away. The only problems are that kitchen stuff isn’t provided and you can’t pick up keys on the weekend.

Was it provided?

No. The hospital took me on the understanding that they would neither house nor pay me! (They didn’t have space in the internat.) However I was allowed to have the three course lunch in the internat for free every day with the rest of the doctors.

How much did it cost?

The studio I chose was the most expensive option. There were cheaper studios in older buildings or conventional rooms in halls but I fancied a bit more space. It cost 324€ / month but I stayed 5 weeks and they didn’t make me pay for the last week! The electricity is payable on top but that only came to about 20€.

Did you enjoy your visit?

Absolutely loved it.

Did you find it useful medically? Very useful. In Liverpool we do our electives at the end of our third year and we don’t do A+E until fifth year so I had no previous experience of acute medicine. I wrote this review about 6 months after coming back and keep thinking back to my elective every time we get asked “Has anyone seen such and such a disease/presentation etc?” I even saw two cases of normal malaria and one case of cerebral malaria – proof you don’t have to go to Africa to see interesting diseases!

Has it improved your French?

I spoke good French before I went as I studied the language and did an ERASMUS year during my undergraduate degree but I was not confident about how I would cope in a hospital situation. My medical French is so much better now. I had done the AFMS course before I went which was useful and by the end of my time in France I was happy to see patients alone and discuss their cases with doctors.

How has it increased your knowledge of French culture?

I love the attitude of the doctors towards lunch. Everyone goes at some point during a two hour period over to the internat where there was a three course meal everyday. It was great for me as I got to meet people from all over the hospital. When the drug reps visited at lunchtime they came with cheese and wine (not Tesco doughnuts!) and we even had an A+E wine tasting event at 11.30 one morning!

If you went back would you do anything differently?

I would love to go back and would stay longer next time!

How did you get there?

I flew Easyjet from Liverpool to Paris CDG.

RER and Métro across Paris.

Train from Paris to Orleans (about 1hr)

What was the approximate total cost?

Probably ended up around 1000€ including all the visiting I did.

Accomodation 350€

Flights 75€ return

Train 30€ return. That is an open ticket. If you can reserve specific trains it can be cheaper.

Tram pass 26€ per month. Student unlimited tram/bus pass.