It came up recently that I had not been posting much about my work, since that is the reason we ended up moving to Switzerland anyway. I’ve had a number of friends email me assuming that work is keeping me very busy since Sarah authors most of the posts on this blog. Work does keep me busy, but not so busy that I can’t take time off to spend with my family.
So when I looked back, it turns out the only real meaningful post I have written about my job was from back in August, and that was within a week of me starting at the hospital. So I guess it is time for an update. Make sure you grab a drink for this post, because it may be a little dry, and pictures will be sparse.
You may remember that I am here to learn about “hip preservation surgery.” This is a new field in orthopaedics that was really started here in Bern within the last 20 years, and has come into its own here over the last ten years or so. One awesome thing about my job is that I get to work with, and learn from, the world leaders in hip preservation. The Inselspital is used to having people come visit for varying lengths of time to learn their techniques. Most people will visit for four weeks, six weeks, or maybe three months. Six months is not common, and a whole year is not very common at all.
But with that said, there are some very cool benefits that come along with being here for a full year. Unlike most other fellows, I get an office (with a great view of the northern Jura mountains), a new computer, and an ability to really delve deeply into what they’re trying to do here. Research here is plentiful, but not much can be done in 6 weeks. So when a new fellow comes, it’s difficult to integrate them meaningfully in research. Since I am here for a full year, I have as much research work as I can handle, and then some.
My mentors/coworkers are like every other group of orthopaedists that I’ve had the pleasure to work with; they’re fun, irreverent, enthusiastic, and sport a great sense of humor. They have taken the time to teach me their trade, but also to integrate me into their culture and social life. I’m learning history and language and medicine and so much more.
As far as how things compare to what I am used to back home, there are some definite differences. First of all, surgical scrubs are only to be worn in surgery, no exception. I repeat, no exception (and when someone says that with a German accent, you listen). Not only that, but there are communal-use surgical shoes (sterilized after each use) that you must wear. And for infected cases, there are a separate pair of shoes that are to be worn only in the Operating Room (OR), itself.
The OR lounge for nurses, surgeons, and staff has loaves of fresh bread, platters of cured meats, and fresh soup brought in daily. There is also an excellent coffee maker and taps for naturelle (no bubbles) and frizzante (bubbles) mineral water. While lots of time can be wasted here, I rarely see people linger her for more than 20-30 minutes.
Lunch is A BIG DEAL here. Back home, “eating lunch” meant shoving cold chicken strips in my mouth as I walked between the OR and the ER. But in Switzerland, lunch is the main meal, and the Inselspital is really no exception. Most of the orthopaedics department gathers for lunch between 11:30am and 1:00pm. Lunch is a time to sit, relax, eat a LARGE meal, drink a coffee, and… eventually… go back to work.
While all of this sounds great, I can’t help but think how different it might be if I were really able to speak the language. My relative shyness in talking, mixed with the Swiss’ natural tendency to not be very welcoming into their friendship circle, naturally means that my ability to make friends with ancillary staff, techs, nurses, etc is not easy. Back home this was not a problem, but here it can be a bit isolating. But even with those obstacles, I’ve been able to make some work friends. Or perhaps my ridiculous way of speaking is just a novelty to them. I’m like a monkey. A monkey who is poor at speaking Swiss German.
But with all of that said, I could not be happier with my decision to come here. The opportunity has been great, and will hopefully provide a continuing productive professional relationship well into the future. It’s exactly what I want to be doing right now. And in a way it really makes me appreciate what I have to look forward to back home. Sarah and I say it all the time: we’re blessed. We’re extremely lucky to be here.
In fact, I’m the luckiest monkey I know.
Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.