The Cantonal Hospital of Graubünden
A coffee at the Graubünden cantonal hospitalLEARN MORE
Its employees give their all for their patients’ health. We interviewed Simone Hofer, the deputy medical director in the department for vascular surgery, and the chief radiation therapist Chris Winter during a coffee break and asked them why they chose to work at this hospital, how operating theatres will change in future, and what football coaching and staff management have in common.
The room is suffused with afternoon sunlight. Graubünden’s glorious mountain scenery is reflected in the glass facades of the staff restaurant. We all sit down at a table, coffee cups in our hands. The atmosphere is relaxed: for a moment, the hectic day-to-day vanishes.
Do you ever get tired of this view?
Chris Winter: No. You realise again and again just how beautiful this place is. Simone, do you agree?
Simone Hofer: Yes, I don’t even need to take a break for that. In the bathroom of the operating theatre, I have a heavenly view of the uplands and get to let my eyes wander for awhile.
Before we lose ourselves in this view: how did you get to the Graubünden cantonal hospital?
CW: My mother is Swiss, my father is from the United States. After completing my education as a radiation therapist in Boston, I wanted to go to Australia for work. But I needed five years of experience, and I only had four. In Boston, I met a doctor from Zurich who encouraged me to spend my fifth year in Zurich. During my very first day at the university hospital, I met the woman who was to be my wife. She’s from Chur. So I’m here for love.
SH: In a way, it was love for me, too. My husband got a position as a medical director in the urology department. Back then, I was training to become a vascular surgeon at the university hospital in Zurich, working part-time. Thankfully, I was able to continue with the part-time model here and become a senior physician, then the deputy medical director.
Image: left Chris Winter, right Simone Hofer
You can be a part-time surgeon?
SH: Part-time work is increasingly feasible in surgery, yes. It hasn’t always been like this. I started on 60% FTE and increased my hours to 80% over time. This model was very important to me – I have four children, after all. I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this kind of career in many other places.
CW: We have more in common than I thought. We both have four children!
SH: What a coincidence! When did you move here from Zurich?
SH: No way. So did we!
You were both working in a hospital in a big city before. What stood out to you when you started here in Chur?
SH: Decisions involve much fewer people. And there’s a greater sense of community. Other large hospitals in Switzerland are friendly, yes, but they’re anonymous. Here, we know everyone and greet them by their first name. It’s like a family. This is quite apparent during staff events. At one point, the surgical team cooked for the other departments during a cooking series.
CW: It’s not a little provincial hospital, as city people might think. We provide top-class medicine on a small scale here. And then there’s all the state-of-the-art equipment.
Image: Chris Winter
Speaking of state-of-the-art equipment: the hospital is in the middle of renovations. What is changing for you?
SH: A lot has already changed for me. At the start of the year, we moved into the new hybrid room, an operating theatre with imaging equipment. What’s special about these rooms is that the angiography system is integrated into the room. Everything is in one place: the sterile conditions of an operating theatre for surgical procedures combined with cutting-edge imaging and optimal radiation protection.
CW: We, the radiation therapists, will not move into our new building until 2026. It’s very exciting to see it all come together. I’ve also been involved in the design of the patient flows, and I’ve noticed that the main purpose of the expansion is to increase the focus on patients even further.
Chris, you manage a team of twelve at the cantonal hospital. In your free time, you coach 50 players of the Swiss national American-football team. Which type of leadership is easier?
CW: In an American-football team, you have an incredible variety of people, from an unemployed twenty-something to a forty-year-old investment banker. The team in our radiation oncology department is much more homogeneous. So management is a lot easier here than it is on the field.
I have noticed the huge sketch on the wall of the restaurant, which continues across large parts of the ceiling.
SH: Yes, both parts belong to Prima Cucina by Zilla Leutenegger. It’s the winning art project in the construction competition, which I oversaw. On top of my vascular surgery, I also work for the art commission.
Paintbrushes instead of scalpels?
SH: (She laughs). Sure, every now and then. At the moment, we are curating a staff exhibition. (She points to an expressive, abstract, colourful painting.) This piece, for example, is by one of my colleagues. She’s a hand surgeon.
The restaurant at the Graubünden cantonal hospital features an open cooking display. Chris Winter recommends it warmly: “Not a single day passes without me thinking: I want to try that.” But we’re out of time. The coffee cups are empty. The sun is slowly setting behind the mountain peaks. And the panorama is simply too beautiful for the visitor from the lowlands to keep her camera in her pocket.