4 years ago when I was just starting my training in psychiatry I received an email about a new project called EFPT. All those years down the line I am proud to say that I’ve been involved in three exchange programmes in three amazing settings.
I started with an exchange in Croatia and some might ask why? The answer is probably related to my attraction to new challenges and the unknown. The result were 4 amazing weeks in which I got to observe a variety of services from intensive psychiatric support to psychology and rehabilitation.
My second exchange was in Porto and I particularly chose the ECT programme. Like any young psychiatrist in training we want to be exposed and to observe all treatment options available at present. This is an extraordinary focused exchange programme that provides theoretical and practical skills related to ECT. The result were 3 intense weeks and the chance to have an extraordinary psychiatrist as supervisor.
Andreea Casacu (far right in picture) together with the ECT team at Magalhães Lemos Hospital, Porto
Last but not the least I went to Turkey to discover a different perspective on psychopathology and to observe how culture and psychiatry are combined. The result was a unique glimpse on psychiatry that increased my understanding of cultural diversity.
What EFPT offers is not just a professional exposure but a total experience. You are a trainee among other trainees. I can easily consider these exchange programmes a complete professional and socio-cultural experience. In every exchange there is always more, always something that is going to surprise you. You apply for a particular programme but be sure that you are going to be amazed by so many other things. You can always count that you are going to get actively involved and you will learn new skills. All supervisors that I’ve encountered were welcoming and tried to maximize my exposure during those few days.
Probably the bonuses of any exchange programme are the people that you meet and the friendships that are born. In a multicultural world where people can move freely it’s good to have a network of trainees amongst whom exists a free exchange of information. I have to admit that I’ve never expected to win so many friends for life. It’s impressive to find common ground with so many people even if our cultural backgrounds are so different.
There is also the internal journey from being insecure to gaining confidence to take the big loop in your professional life. You learn to create a motivation letter, learn to interact with your peers, learn to ask questions, learn to accept new answers, learn to formally present yourself in front of an audience and by doing this you learn more about yourself and your roots. In the end you become a teacher for others and I was surprised to see how many of my colleagues ask for advice about my exchange programmes.
If I would have to give just one piece of advice I would probably recommend everybody to take their time and explore all options. Every programme is unique in its way and overall the options cover even the most exquisite taste. There isn’t one best exchange programme and I can say with confidence that all are the best.
Never consider that language is a barrier. I never felt limited by language difficulties and I’ve always gained the maximum experience. Even if you don’t understand this might be a good opportunity to refine your skills in understanding body language and anticipating your client’s reactions. In the end it’s up to you to discover how much you want to assimilate from such an experience.
I would like to use these final words to offer my gratitude to all that helped me in my exchange programmes. It is incredible to find people that are willing to unconditionally open their professional and personal life to you. They’ve showed me the beauty of their work place and also the hidden treasures of their countries. I wouldn’t have seen and observed so many spectacular settings without them. I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t have achieved so many things in my life if it wasn’t for the confidence and experience that EFPT has given to me.
Now that you had the patience to read all these lines what stops you from applying? Go explore EFPT and enjoy the beauty of being a psychiatry trainee.
Psychiatry registrar, UK (now!)