Living and Working as a geriatrician in Wales

Dr Anthony James is a Consultant Physician at Princess of Wales Hospital. 

Why train, work and live in Wales and why do Geriatric medicine here? It isn’t an easy decision to choose a specialty or move to a different part of the country. Wales is often thought of for its castles, song, rugby, dragons and heavy industry in the way of Coal and steel.

The national health services was established on the 5th July 1948 by Aneurin Bevan, a Welsh man, and today the National Health Service is Wales’ largest Employer.  In recent years the NHS in Wales policy has deviated from England’s version guided by the Wales Assembly Government (WAG) based in Cardiff.

Wales has nine universities and two medical schools, one in Cardiff and one in Swansea, which has a graduate entry programme. Both Cardiff and Swansea are coastal cities. They have a vibrant atmosphere with an active social life and student life with many great restaurants. They have easy access to some remarkably beautiful coastline and mountainous areas. National Parks are in abundance in Wales including stunning coastal regions and rugged inland mountainous areas.

Patients come from widely different backgrounds. Wales has an older population than the rest of the UK and wide differences in socioeconomic groups. They have a complex mixture of social, multiple comorbidities and sometimes psychiatric issues on a background of frailty. This is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in elderly care but also to help improve the lives of patients.

Rotations in Geriatric medicine are split into regions in Wales to making commuting easier but each placement will encompass Teaching hospitals, District General hospitals, community hospitals and the more general community. The medical experience is excellent across foundation, core training and speciality. True the posts are very busy, as are most posts these days, but that’s important, particularly if you are doing your PACES examination in preparation for speciality training. It’s also very important to see and experience as much as possible to be the best you can be as a Consultant. There is a wide range of experience available covering all areas of the curriculum in General medicine and general and specialist geriatric curriculums.

As the population gets older and specialties become more introspective and less able to deal with complexity of Geriatric medicine, the speciality is increasingly finding new and innovative areas for practice bridging these gaps left by other specialties.

You will drive your education, as a specialist registrar in Geriatric medicine, but trained, named educational supervisors will supervise your progress. Those educational supervisors are required to undertake training and CPD to remain as supervisors. The Wales Post Graduate Deanery monitors this. Hospitals have a local named person who sets up and monitors the local educational experience in Geriatric medicine.

The Wales branch of the British Geriatric Society is very sociable and it’s common to know people from all over Wales. There are two annual meetings of the Wales branch held in different parts of Wales. There is a business meeting and educational meeting. Registrars are encouraged to undertaken research and present this at this meeting and at the UK national meeting of the British Geriatric Society. Active research is encouraged but it is also possible to undertake an MSc in a subject of your interest linked to work.

Living in Wales has many benefits. Generally there is cheaper housing. The country is also peppered with areas of outstanding beauty. In January 2013 Swansea’s Rhossili Bay was voted the third-best beach in Europe on the travel website Tripadvisor, beating competition from Greece and Sardinia. The three-mile stretch of white sand on the Gower Peninsula was the UK’s top-rated destination. The 870-mile-long All Wales Coast Path, a government scheme costing £10m, was opened in 2012, running from Chepstow in the south right the way around to Queensferry in Flintshire. Its completion means Wales is the only country in the world with a footpath covering its entire coastline. Lonely Planet called the Welsh coastline “the greatest region on Earth to visit”, ahead of some of the world’s most famous destinations.

Its true Wales has had a long and interesting history but that history is being made today. Come and take a look for yourself and see what Wales has to offer!

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