From the autobahn to great engineering, punctuality to soccer, Germany is a country that has beaconed travelers for decades. It’s the land of good beer, Octoberfest, bratwurst and lederhosen. Given a chance to visit, even for the purpose of training, is an opportunity that most would welcome.
That is exactly what Christopher Brown, a service engineer II with St. Bernard’s Medical Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas did.
“My trip was for the Siemens Uroskop Omnia that we purchased as a urology surgical operating room. The training was mandatory for working on the Omnia system and some prerequisites were needed depending on the level of X-ray experience,” Brown says.
“The first week of training was dedicated to learning the Siemens Flourospot Compact software. The software was designed specifically for Siemens and requires factory training to get permission to log into the system,” he says.
“The main reason I ended up in Germany was because of Siemens Medical. Siemens does not offer this training outside of Germany, unless you have special permission from the factory. In fact, one of my instructors was planning his trip to China for a different class. Siemens does have a training center in the United States at Cary, North Carolina,” Brown adds.
The class attracted biomeds from Sweden, France, Spain, South Korea, China, Austria, Canada, Germany, as well as the U.S. Brown learned that a common spoken language wasn’t always needed to interact during his coursework.
“I was very impressed with the knowledge of the biomeds from around the world. I’m sure you know that English is the universal working language. So, each of the non-[English] speaking students had some level of English training and they were very well spoken. If you consider how we all troubleshoot problems, we all use schematics that are universal symbols as well. During the troubleshooting exercises, there were no language barriers, just teamwork, solving the problems,” Brown says.
Brown says that the most impressive people at the Siemens training center were the instructors. He says that most of them spoke at least three languages and were very knowledgeable on all of the Siemens modalities.
“Germany was a great experience from training to meeting people from around the world. The people were very friendly and even most of the locals spoke at least a little English. I did make most of them laugh when I tried to speak the few words I learned for the trip,” Brown says.
“My training and hotel accommodations were both in Erlangen, Germany. The city was wonderful, with the community split into thirds, with one third being Siemens, one third the university and the last third the local housing,” he adds.
Training and Tourism
As is the case with training courses or business trips overseas, there is often some time beyond the obligations of the trip to explore and get a sense of the culture and sights. Brown was able to partake in both.
“I stayed in the NH Erlangen and thought it was nice, but a lot of things were missing since they were in the middle of remodeling. The hotel did not have an on-site laundry for guests, but they still made a commercial laundry service available,” he says. “The rooms were very nice and offered a nice place to relax. The workout room/gym and sauna areas were not available because of the remodel. The hotel was a little over a mile to the training center and not far from many key Erlangen attractions.”
The tourist part of the trip included castles, historic churches and statues.
Exercise was on the agenda also, although it was not part of a formal program. Brown got more than his fill of walking around Erlangen.
“On the way to Nuremburg, we were delayed at the Frankfurt Airport for more than an hour and the rental company gave my car away to another person,” Brown recounts. “So, for the week of school, I literally walked to school in the snow. Lucky for me it was flat and not uphill both ways, but I had fun telling my kids the story.”
Landing in a new culture can often bring some surprises or revelations, including things you were expecting and others you weren’t. Brown was really surprised at the degree to which the Germans engaged in walking and cycling.
“In Erlangen, the sidewalks were wide with different colored sections for walkers and bikers. Also, in the older sections of town, sidewalks were reserved for only pedestrians so bike lanes were added to the roads. With everything being so close, it only made sense to walk if the weather permitted,” he says.
He also noted the distinct dialects between different regions.
“Every area of Germany knows the proper German, but no one speaks it,” Brown explains. “Each area has their own version and different words for the same things. We had three German people in class and they all spoke differently. Also, a student from Austria spoke another version of German that he learned growing up in school. Sometimes they would all discuss which words were used in certain situations.”
Brown learned that the German people tend to be reserved at first until they get to know you.
“If you are lucky enough to make friends with a German, you will have a friend for life,” he says.
The timing of the training course did not coincide with a couple of events that attract tourists from near and far.
“I missed the biggest events for the region. Nuremburg is famous for Oktoberfest and Christkindlesmarkt,” Brown says. “Oktoberfest, the beer festival and fair, is now held during the last two weeks of September. Christkindlesmarkt is one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany and one of the most famous in the world. I was able to get a couple of Christkindlesmarkt cups as souvenirs for my kids to use for cocoa.”
Back in the States
Brown has been an HTM professional since 1999.
“Currently, I work as the biomed project leader and designer for new areas and remodeling along with X-ray and biomedical duties. We are building a new surgical and ICU tower and we are expanding our cardiac cath lab areas,” Brown says.
“I’m helping layout the patient monitoring and cath lab areas, before we start on our pediatric expansion. I still maintain the patient monitors and telemetry throughout the hospital. I also serve as the primary biomed for our Level 3 NICU,” he adds.
Most days, he can be found working in the hospital completing repairs or doing preventative maintenance.
The trip to Germany was a memorable adventure for Brown. And the training will be put to good use. And, as the German’s say: “Andere Länder, andere Sitten;” which translated means “Other countries, other customs.”
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