Since 2000, the Department of Neurosurgery has offered residents an exciting opportunity to complete a six-month elective rotation in Dublin, Ireland. In many ways, this rotation represents a critical point in training, when residents make the transition from a supervised clinical environment to one where they act as more independent neurosurgeons.
Dublin is an ideal location to mature as a neurosurgical specialist. The Irish health system is a socialized system. As such, it consolidates specialty medical care into designated centers in and around Dublin. Beaumont Hospital serves as Ireland’s National Neurosurgical Center. Beaumont is a large, 820-bed academic teaching hospital that cares for all of the neurosurgical patients from more than 90% of the country.
The Irish neurosurgical program has six teams, each overseen by a consultant (equivalent to an attending physician). Residents electing to live and work in Dublin are called “registrars.” Each team has a registrar, a senior house officer (akin to a junior neurosurgery resident), and an intern. Although the system is consultant-led, neurosurgical registrars have a great deal of independent responsibility and this is why this constitutes an excellent surgical experience.
As registrar, your role is to run the consultant’s service, manage ICU and ward patients (a ward in the truest sense!), perform all operations, and run the clinic. When on call, registrars take referrals from all over the country. On the basis of the referring physicians’ findings and a CT scan (sent electronically or by taxi), you decide whether the patient needs urgent neurosurgical care.
The Ireland rotation offers an unmatched experience into the workings of a health care system other than our own. It also enables participants to be part of an international team, with unparalleled operative autonomy. Our residents return from Dublin confident and experienced surgeons, thoroughly prepared to serve as chief residents and, ultimately, as an attending neurosurgeon.
To ease the transition to an overseas rotation, the Department of Neurosurgery provides a monthly stipend that supplements your salary from Beaumont Hospital.
And what’s an overseas experience if it’s all work and no play? In addition to professional development, the Dublin rotation provides numerous opportunities to get out and enjoy life in Ireland. Dublin is a cosmopolitan city with great restaurants, shopping, theatre and music. Within a 30-minute drive of the city, there are several beautiful seaside towns, including Dún Laoghaire, Howth and Malahide, as well as the mountains and abbeys of Wicklow. Golfing, hiking, fly-fishing, and many historical sites can all be found in and around Dublin. On your “holidays,” all of Europe also is just a quick flight away.
Overall, the professional experiences as well as the life experiences that you have during your six months in Dublin are fantastic and irreplaceable.
Don’t be surprised, too, if you return a bit more critical of St. Louis Guinness!