Background The change in immigration policy in 2006 threatened to significantly compromise the international support to UK paediatric services. Overseas paediatricians helped meet the service needs in the NHS and in turn benefited from the different training opportunities available. Fortunately new initiatives were developed; IPTS (international Paediatric Training Scheme) in 2009 and MTI (Medical Training Initiative) in 2012. Whilst the RCPCH encourages international trainees to experience working in the UK it also supports UK trainees working in developing countries. One example is the RCPCH VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) Fellowship. We wanted to look at existing support and contrast the experience for trainees on both sides of these schemes.
Methods/materials Semi-structured interviews were conducted for three IPTS trainees in the UK and several UK trainees on the VSO fellowship in Ethiopia; reviewing the application process, support received and challenges faced.
Results The application process was found to be lengthy with many challenges. Support was available but negotiating the application process required individual commitment. Not surprisingly communication was identified as a challenge; language barriers, cultural differences and norms for both families and staff. There were new concepts to learn on both sides; for the international trainees, considering the impact of psycho-social problems and learning how to work with the multi-disciplinary approach to patient care. For the UK trainee it was learning skills in resilience and ingenuity from existing staff and families in a resource poor setting. Trainees on both schemes would recommend their placements to colleagues with an overall experience rating of 8/10.
Conclusion Working in a different cultural context brings benefits to international and UK trainees alike. Our international trainees were exposed to the latest models for paediatric care and learnt about multi-disciplinary approach to management. The UK trainee found working in a developing country offered ideal opportunities to become involved in service improvement and improve leadership skills. To support trainees participating in these schemes a tailored package should be developed. Future considerations include a network for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in the UK, a paediatric VSO mentoring scheme and targeted training for educational supervisors supporting IMGs.