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“In London all the foundation doctors get iPads!” It was a Monday, I was on a ward round and we had just been given a new batch of medical students. This particular student had her sights set on training in London. I went on to tell her about what a great year I was having, how much I liked the hospital, how supportive my seniors were, how many procedures I had performed and operations I had been given the chance to assist on. I described how the free accommodation offered to all first year foundation doctors in Wales meant I had more money than ever before, and was living with 12 other first year doctors, many of whom had become best friends.
She was not swayed however and continued to apply to London. I heard later that she had not scored highly enough to get the area she desired, and was living a few hours commute from central London, paying £600 a month for accommodation. But she was pleased. Because she was training in London.
So where is it that this idea comes from, that Wales is an inferior place to train?
I am a second year doctor, currently working in Merthyr Tydfil, a hospital north of Cardiff. I am originally from Surrey, but applied to Cardiff University to study medicine after visiting the city and falling in love with it.
My housemate is from Newcastle and also studied in Cardiff. She has now applied for core medical training in Wales and has bought a house here. She tells me that before she moved to Wales, she was told by friends in Newcastle that she would have to speak Welsh if she was going to study here. There does appear to be some misconceptions of training in Wales from those outside of the country.
We both love living and working in Wales. One thing that many people who share our opinion say, is that they never feel like just another trainee here. In every job I have worked in I have felt as if the whole department got to know who I was, and then throughout the year, the whole hospital. From radiographers to porters, from consultants to café staff, everyone says hello to you in the corridor. Welsh people being friendly is certainly not a myth.
Although trainees here remain competitive, they do so at their own merit, without wishing to harm others’ training. Last year a colleague of mine became besotted with surgery and realised this was the career for her. The enthusiasm she showed meant she was called in to assist with many procedures, and other juniors, who were perhaps not as keen on surgery, would happily let her rack up her numbers to further her interest and carer prospects.
Trainees in Wales certainly do not suffer academically. We have an excellent pass rate in many exams, including medical and surgical entry exams. Many of my medical colleagues have achieved excellent PACES results- two ranking top in their sittings in the UK. They tell me that when their exams were looming consultants would take them around the hospital, finding interesting patients and grilling them about their conditions and management. The consultants wanted to see them pass and were more than willing to help.
The Wales Deanery is also keen to assist their trainees. Opportunities to apply for funded masters and fellowships or to become involved in projects and research are always being emailed out to trainees. A recent venture, “Trainees Transforming Training”, involved the deanery inviting trainees to apply for funding towards projects aiming to improve aspects of training. My colleague and I applied and were lucky enough to be successful. ‘The Core’ website for Core Medical Trainees launches later this year.
I don’t just enjoy living in Wales when I am at work. It is a beautiful country boasting stunning scenery, beaches and mountains. I had never watched rugby before coming to Wales but it is hard not to love the sport when you visit the city during the Six Nations. The shopping and night life offered in Cardiff is second to none, and on top of all of this, the house prices and general cost of living is vastly less than England.
Wales is a developing deanery. It has issues, as I’m sure all deaneries do, but here you have the opportunity to affect change, and won’t be just another doctor. I am passionate about making Wales a deanery people are proud to train in, and I’m not the only one.
London can keep their iPads. I’m staying in Wales.