I’m a committed, enthusiastic lifelong learner and love travel, so getting to do both at the same is a win-win in my world. In all honesty, since covid 19, leaving my postcode still feels like a big adventure (yep, I know!) So the last week has been super special.
I’m in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany, via Frankfurt and the fabulous German train service (UK rail, please take note). I would never have visited this part of the world had it not been work-related, which would have been a shame. Göttingen is famous for its university but is somewhat sleepy at the moment because the semester hasn’t started; all the better for me. I’m with an international group for the first time since, you know what, learning from world-class experts and visiting a rare anatomical collection which is an enormous privilege; sorry, I can’t share photos.
Fortunately, we had glorious autumn sunshine after a stormy arrival and had time to do many of my favourite things. I wandered, got lost, chatted with locals and a grumpy taxi driver (he was a proper grouch), and walked around museums and botanical gardens; Göttingen has four. I made time photographed churches, quirky buildings, and my best-loved travel pass time; people-watch while sipping a drink outside a quirky coffee shop or bar.
However, it was work that brought me to Göttingen, so here’s a little clue about what I’ve been delving into this week; this book also reminds me of my postgraduate training at the Osteopathic centre for children, better known as the OCC. For over 25 years, this small charity has supported thousands of babies, children and women during the perinatal period in its warm, friendly, relaxed free and low-cost clinics. At the same time, it offers what is considered the gold standard of paediatric osteopathic education in the UK.
If you don’t like babies or children, it’s probably time to move on, sorry. To the observer or untrained eye, these cute bundles of loveliness can seem like a breeze to treat. However, the truth is that primary care (diagnosis, treatment, advice, support and referral when needed) of infants, babies and children is often tricky and complex, especially when presented with challenging conditions and the accompanying emotional fallout these bring to a whole family. Good paediatric care, osteopathic or allopathic, requires ongoing study, and the joy of that is it brings opportunities to collaborate while one learns; wonderfully beneficial for clinicians and patients alike.
Taking another deep dive into embryology made me reflect on my time at the OCC (2009 -2011). I was based across their Clerkenwell, Wandsworth clinics and the Starlight Neonatal Unit at Barnet Hospital, a unique opportunity for any UK osteopath and one I will never forget. For many reasons; location, interest, other commitments and finances, only a tiny percentage of my profession choose or get to do this training; I feel incredibly fortunate that this place is in my hometown, and it was an option for me.
I was stretched to my limits, professionally and personally, at the OCC. It was a time of many firsts, including facing professional bullying (!!!), but also a time when I found allies for life. I grew as a practitioner and was humbled as a human, witnessing the death of children and seemingly magical health transformations of others, sometimes on the same day! These unforgettable experiences helped me learn a new level of resilience and how to be antifragile, but only after nearly burning out. Without this trip to Germany, I’m not sure I would have paused to look back; or appreciate the importance of doing just that.
I feel fortunate to have made a small contribution to the cycle of collaborative education and growth by becoming a paediatric clinical educator myself. I thrive on learning (but hate exams) and am eternally grateful to those who educated and supported me (then and now). I also am thankful for those who attempted to obstruct and hinder me (bullies rarely win), but my ultimate appreciation goes to the families and babies who trusted me back in my fledgling OCC days.
They say travel broadens the mind, and one needs to step out of one comfort zone to grow; I agree but does education in all its guises, so don’t be afraid to step out of yours, explore new stuff and create magical memories.