How would the Australian Rotary Rural Health Scholarship help with my studies at the Rural Clinical School?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Meningie, and then later Victor Harbor in a family of 4 children, where I was exposed to numerous family health issues and navigating the health system. From the experiences of significant wait times to get into appointments and often having to travel for appointments, I developed a passion for rural health and any opportunity to help provide equal access to health care across rural Australia.
In 2021, I completed my surgical placement at the Whyalla hospital, and I was overwhelmed with the welcoming community and the sense of purpose and service, which I have never truly felt in the metropolitan hospitals. I deeply valued this sense of community, which inspired me to further my rural medicine experience and seek the exciting opportunity of a whole year of placement at Port Augusta in 2022. I am so thankful for this opportunity to further develop my passion for rural health. Exposure to rural health disparities will motivate me to be the best doctor I can be to ensure I competently provide medical care as a rural practitioner when I complete my degree.
I am also really excited for the opportunity to be involved in care of the Indigenous population of Port Augusta in a culturally competent way, and to be part of bridging the gap in health outcomes. Port Augusta has a significant Indigenous population and I have no doubt it will be an eye-opening experience in realising the barriers the community faces in terms of access to health care. I would actively promote indigenous access to health care and do what I can to develop health literacy.
I have a great appreciation for how Rotary Clubs of rural towns facilitate a sense of community and opportunity for people within the community. I personally have often been involved in the Rotary Club in Victor Harbor by entering my own art works in the annual Rotary Art Show. I deeply value community and really enjoy any public speaking opportunities.
Upon completion of my degree, I hope to be an activist in recruitment for rural doctors and aid in the development of a strong and equal health care system in the rural setting in SA. I would be so grateful to be a recipient of the Australian Rotary Health Rural Scholarship to help me to achieve my dream to be a rural generalist doctor and help to promote equal access and break down barriers to health care access in the rural setting.
Current Progressive Report
I am incredibly grateful to have been the recipient of the Australian Rotary Health Scholarship for Rural Clinical School Students 2022. I never could have imagined how valuable spending my penultimate year of medicine – rurally – would be for my learning both personally, and professionally. So far I have completed 6 months of placement at Port Augusta. The learning opportunities have been incredibly varied – I have seen interesting cases and several firsts, including observing a birth and being present for a death. You can never prepare for the emotive power of these events, and they reawakened my awe of the capabilities of the human body.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Victor Harbor, something I am very proud of, and so I have a great understanding of what life is like in a rural community and hope to provide my services to rural communities as a medical practitioner. The demand for health professionals in rural areas continues to increase as populations grow at a rapid rate – putting increased pressure on the health system to provide efficient and quality health care. Equal access to health care is important to me and having the opportunity to be placed rurally for a whole year will further develop my understanding and passion for rural medicine. In 4th year, I spent 8 weeks in Whyalla for a surgical placement which consolidated my desire to attain a rural placement for 5th year. A key point I valued most about this experience was the willingness of the community to embrace my presence and provide a quality learning experience. I was made to feel like I was a valuable member of the team – as I was asked to complete jobs including, cannulation prior to surgery, parallel consult in clinic, and assist with other procedural aspects.
This year, I have felt the same welcoming energy from the Port Augusta community and clinicians. I am so appreciative of the hands-on learning and the independence I have been granted by the staff, especially in the emergency department and in the GP clinics where I have been able to parallel consult (see patients on my own, then present my findings and management plan to the supervising clinician who would action the plan). Port Augusta Hospital is much smaller than the city hospitals I have had experience in, and it has been wonderful getting to know the various staff members from nurses, toward clerks, cleaners, and the canteen lady.
The teams that I have worked with have been consistent with the academic content of the Adelaide Rural Clinical School curriculum, including paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, emergency, general medicine, and general practice. The placements are structured in 4-week blocks in these teams, providing adequate time to develop a good relationship with the supervisors on the team and access to clinical experience and learning opportunities in each field. The paediatric placement included daily ward rounds managing inpatient children, and an outpatient clinic. Obstetrics and gynaecology included monitoring and managing births, scrubbing in and assisting caesarean sections, and observing the outpatient clinic. Anaesthetics included pre-anaesthetic assessments, inserting IV lines, and assisting with airway support during surgical procedures. Emergency included assessing patients, presenting to the supervising clinician, and simple management such as suturing, taking bloods, and casting broken bones. General medicine included ward-based days completing a ward round and daily care of inpatients with the rostered doctor (who is often one of the local GPs or occasionally a visiting physician). General practice involved parallel consulting and assisting the practice nurse administering vaccinations and carrying out other procedures such as venesection and skin excisions. While it has been challenging to be away from home, family, and the rest of my cohort completing their placement in the city, I count myself privileged and lucky to be placed in Port Augusta with three other lovely students from my year level and we have developed what I think will be a lifelong friendship.
Two unique experiences about placement in Port Augusta include experience with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and with the health service at the nearby town of Quorn. My experiences with the RFDS so far have included an emergency retrieval of a critical patient from Maree (400km North of Port Augusta), attending clinics at remote stations, and interhospital transfer of patients from Port Lincoln, Whyalla, and Port Augusta, to and from Adelaide. Quorn is a small town 40km from Port Augusta serviced by a single doctor who manages the Quorn hospital and the local GP clinic. He has a passion for teaching and providing students with hands-on experiences and welcomes you to his home for lunch at his farmhouse between morning and afternoon clinic. This was a unique experience that I would never have in the city.
The Australian Rotary Health Scholarship for Rural Clinical School Students has contributed significantly to my experience of living in Port Augusta. The funds have enabled me to immerse myself in the community and get the most out of this rural experience, while also facilitating travel costs back home to Victor Harbor to see family on occasion. I have enjoyed being involved in the local netball competition and involving myself in other local events and activities such as the Pichi Richi Marathon, swimming with the cuttlefish at Point Lowly, and camping and hiking in the Flinders Ranges. I am immensely grateful for what this scholarship has made possible for me, and if my experience can inspire at least one person to give a rural placement a go, then I will be very satisfied, and I am sure they will be too!
An experience in Rural medicine that will not be forgotten!
As recipient of the 2022 Australian Rotary Health Scholarship for Rural Clinical School Students 2022, I would like to firstly thank Rotary for facilitating this immersive educational experience – spending my penultimate year of medicine rurally has been so valuable for my learning both personally, and professionally.
I have had a lovely time reflecting the year that was while writing this article. The learning opportunities were incredibly varied – I have been involved in interesting cases and several firsts, including observing births and being present for a death. You can never prepare for the emotive power of these events, and they strengthened my awe of the capabilities of the human body.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in Victor Harbor – something I am very proud of – I really enjoyed connecting with patients from all over the Flinders and Upper Northern district, and hearing their stories of rural life. I was able to really appreciate what it is to live and immerse yourself in a rural community and I hope to be able to continue to contribute to rural communities as a medical practitioner upon graduation. The demand for health professionals in rural areas continues to increase as populations grow at a rapid rate – putting increased pressure on the health system to provide efficient and quality health care. Equal access to health care is important to me and experiencing first-hand the constraints of the rural health care system has been eye opening.
The Port Augusta community and clinicians were so welcoming. The hands-on learning and the independence I have been granted by the staff, especially in the emergency department and in the GP clinics far surmounts any experience I have previously had in major tertiary hospital placements. I was lucky to have lots of face-to-face exposure to learning in some specialty fields including obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, and paediatrics which aligned perfectly with University course teaching – otherwise majority of course delivery was online via zoom tutorials. Going on bush-run clinics and emergency retrievals with the Royal Flying Doctor services was an experience I will never forget. I am grateful to have had the privilege of spending a day with one of the visiting orthopaedic surgeons, as I have a keen interest on the field of orthopaedics. Port Augusta Hospital is much smaller than the city hospitals I have had experience in, and it has been wonderful getting to know the various staff members from nurses, to ward clarks, midwives, pharmacists, cleaners, and the canteen lady.
Something particularly unique about Port Augusta is the exposure to indigenous and aboriginal health. I spent some days observing at an indigenous health service. It was so fantastic to see the wonderful work that the aboriginal health practitioners do, but also, I couldn’t help but notice the health gap. I was shocked to see such severe kidney and heart disease in such young people – levels of disease I would only expect to see in the older general population. Meanwhile, it was positive to see some steps in the direction of closing the gap – a service which stood out to me is the Anangu Bibi Birthing Program. This is a pioneering multidisciplinary service which provides culturally competent antenatal and post-natal maternity services in a culturally appropriate environment with the support of midwives, obstetricians, Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care workers, family support workers, and social workers. This service has significantly improved engagement with maternity services and subsequently improved the health outcomes for Aboriginal babies.
The Australian Rotary Health Scholarship for Rural Clinical School Students contributed significantly to my experience of living in Port Augusta. The funds enabled me to immerse myself in the community and get the most out of this rural experience, while also facilitating travel costs back home to Victor Harbor to see family on occasion. I enjoyed captaining a netball team in the local netball competition and involved myself in other local events and activities such as the Pichi Richi Marathon, riding the Afghan Express on the Pichi Richi train line, attending the Quorn show, shearing sheep, partaking in Park Run and camping and hiking in the Flinders Ranges. I am immensely grateful for what this scholarship has made possible for me, and if my experience can inspire at least one person to give a rural placement a go, then I will be very satisfied, and I am sure they will be too! As to my future, I am not certain yet where medicine will take me and what field I will work in, but I know for sure that I want to be able to give back to rural communities and provide whatever specialty skills I attain to rural communities.