Crossing borders

Published: 02 January 2018 Ezine

Stewart Murdoch, Raigmore Hospital, Inverness

It is not every day that you’re summoned to the chief executive’s office. However, on this occasion it was for reasons for which I am glad to have attended.

At the beginning of 2017 Elaine Mead, Chief Executive at NHS Highland, was contacted by two trainee radiographers based in Germany. As part of their Erasmus programme they were looking for a hospital that could accommodate them for a three-month placement.  

At the time, I was fulfilling the role of student co-ordinator for the radiology department, and as a result was contacted by Elaine to see if this was feasible to facilitate. Without hesitation I agreed.

Through email correspondence with both Katrin and Anne, it was understood that they were interested in gaining as much experience as possible. This for me made creating a rota for both straightforward and I reached out to colleagues in breast screening and nuclear medicine to broaden the range of experience, as we could already place them in the CT and MRI departments, angiography and cath labs, ultrasound and a busy conventional department.

As a teaching hospital it is expected of us to allow students to visit us and work alongside us during their training period. However, for the radiology department it was a first to have foreign students visit. 

Questions might have been raised about the level of skill and competency they had prior to their visit, as well as the level of language skills and whether there would there be any communication issues.

Having worked with both Anne and Katrin, I can safely say that these questions were unfounded. Their knowledge, communication (especially their grasp of the English language), willingness to work, attitude and commitment to getting the most out of their placement were exceptional.  

Feedback from all staff within the department was extremely positive. It is agreed that we would readily accept them back and would entertain future foreign based student into the radiology department. I would highly recommend that other departments do so also.

Special thanks are given to employment services who helped facilitate the placement along with Kerrie Maclean, AHP Practice Education Lead, who pointed us all in the right direction.

Anne Schreiber and Katrin Vogt 

We are students at the MTA-Schule für Radiologie in Göttingen in Germany, in our second year of our training to become radiographers.

 In Germany, the profession follows an apprenticeship model and it takes three years to complete, after which we will be able to work in diagnostics (general x- ray, MRI, CT, angiography), radiotherapy and nuclear medicine.

During our apprenticeship we have the possibility to spend some time abroad to complete parts of our practical training. The requirement from our school is to spend at least four weeks and at most twelve weeks in a different country. The exchange programme supported us with a scholarship during these three months. 

Katrin and I already knew from the beginning of our training that we would like to do parts of our training abroad and if possible together at the same hospital.

First of all, we had to find a hospital that would take us during this period and would like to share this experience with us. We decided to apply in countries where the working language is English. 

It was difficult for us to find a hospital; sometimes we could not find a contact on the website or the hospital did not answer our emails.

Luckily, we contacted Elaine Mead from the Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and she transferred our request to Stewart Murdoch. After a couple of emails back and forth we had a telephone conversation together and got confirmation shortly after.

After all the paperwork was done, our experience started on 10 June 2017. We flew from Frankfurt over Amsterdam to Inverness to our accommodation across the road from the hospital. 

Stewart welcomed us on the Sunday, which was really nice, because it was not his working day and it was nice to see the department before starting the placement. 

Our placement started on the Monday and we worked from Monday to Friday, the same as back in Germany. Katrin and I worked around the department so that we could experience MRI, CT, x-ray, theater, angiography, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, mammography and a day in radiotherapy. 

Together with the radiographers from the department, we were allowed to scan and x-ray patients. It was also our task to explain the examination to the patients and to interview them before. We also got involved with organisation tasks such as preparing the room for the examination. 

We learned a lot and took new information and skills home which we will use in the rest of our training and later on in our career. We had the chance to gain insights into areas we would not have seen back in Germany during our training. And we have learned technical things and got more self-confident with the equipment, with patients and with the English language.

A big thank you to the whole department and team who welcomed us and made us feel part of their team.

We had really a wonderful experience.