Martina Rekatsina (2019) / Greece
My name is Martina Rekatsina and I am an anaesthesiologist from Greece. I applied for the ESA Trainee Exchange Programme a few months before completing my official training in my country.
After having spent several years in anaesthesia training in Greece, my main aspiration was to gain more experience abroad. Moreover, it was not easy finding a job in my country that would fulfil my criteria after finishing my training and that would offer me at the same time the extra training that I would need. Unfortunately, I soon realised that taking the next step abroad was also really difficult. Apart from all the expenses for travelling, accommodation and living costs, finding a job in another country, without previous experience in their health systems would be hard. Considering all the above, I was really excited to apply for this programme and benefit from its numerous opportunities.
By the end of my training, it was the right moment for me to apply for the ESA TEP. Firstly, I carefully reviewed all the centers of excellence that ESA proposed. My first choice was King’s College Hospital (KCH) for a number of reasons. KCH is a very well-known training center in London, offering all the different anaesthetic subspecialties, like liver transplantation, trauma, complicated obstetric patients, pain management etc. There, Prof. Zoka Milan, an expert anaesthesiologist in liver transplantation would be my mentor. If I was chosen, I would be able to participate in a transplant team, which would be an experience that I never had in the past. Moreover, this fellowship would give me an insight into obstetric anesthesia procedures in UK, as KCH is handling complex obstetric cases. Last but not least, my choice was based on the fact that KCH has an excellent pain clinic, where I would be able to gain hands on experience in several procedures.
Being selected out of many other European candidates has been one of my greatest achievements so far. In October, 2018, I received an email from ESA, informing me that my application was successful. Following that, Prof Zoka Milan accepted my application and we arranged a meeting in KCH, in order to meet each other, discuss my training expectations and goals and plan my fellowship. It became clear from this first visit that KCH was the right choice for me. Prof Milan was really kind and helpful and she was happy for me to attend cases apart from liver transplantations, some obstetric procedures, and also attend the pain clinic.
My training started in April 2019. The first month I was attending the Pain Management Clinic. There, I had the chance to participate in many procedures, such as caudal blocks, facet joint blocks, epidurals etc, under both fluoroscopy and ultrasound, as well as review patients in the clinic, where I had to decide if they needed to undertake any procedure, any changes in their medication or consultation from other specialties. The clinic was very useful to me, as it gave me the opportunity to improve my communication in a non-native language and also improve myself in writing letters to the GPs or other specialists. Moreover, I had the opportunity to participate in the Saturday pain lists and gain further hands on experience, as well as to visit St. Christopher’s Hospice and treating cancer patients with chronic pain.
During the last two months of my fellowship I joined the anaesthetic liver team, where I had the chance to get experience of how an anaesthetic team works in UK and all the different procedures (including patients checks, medication checks, team briefings etc) that are being followed, mostly, as safety measures. Moreover, participating in transplantation surgeries was a unique experience for me. I was given the opportunity to participate in the anaesthetic procedure and gain experience in the management of liver patients. Furthermore, during the last month, I had the chance to participate in obstetric surgical cases and gain experience in the practices that are currently followed in the UK. Another chance that I was given, was my participation at a “King’s Difficult Airway Course”, which was a very educational and unique experience. Last but not least, having the chance to participate in research on liver transplantation was also a great opportunity and experience for me.
I had already had decided to continue my training in the UK, after the end of this fellowship, before going back to work as a consultant in Greece. The Trainee Exchange Programme has been a unique opportunity for me. Certainly, it was a huge career booster, which opened the door for me to continue my training in the UK. I have gained a lot of knowledge both in terms of my medical education, as well as regarding the function of the UK’s NHS system and the UK’s training program, which both are by far different that in my country. Moreover I had the opportunity to improve my communicating, as well as managerial skills, as in many occasions I had to make my own decisions.
At this point I would like to thank everyone who helped me to accomplish this programme. I am really grateful to Professor Zoka Milan, for her support in every step of this program and of course, all the people at KCH who accepted me as a part of their team. Moreover, I would like to thank all the people from ESA and particularly Alex Rawlings and Els Sung, who both were always there for all my needs, and handled everything successfully and always on time.
The ESA trainee exchange scholarship is one of the greatest opportunities that a young trainee can experience. I will always be grateful to ESA and I wish that I can inspire as many young trainees as possible to apply for it, and have this great experience in an outstanding training center in Europe.