The clinical years of the medicine degree would have to be a highlight of my time at JCU. After three years of mainly textbook-based study, the transition into clinical placement was really, really important to me.
Being in the hospital setting, interacting with real patients, and then becoming an active part of a medical team, even as a student, was so beneficial in learning the communication and teamwork skills required to work effectively.
In second year, I had the opportunity to go to Thursday Island for a four-week rural placement. That was just one of those unparalleled experiences you could have for a rural placement. The Torres Strait is such an iconic and beautiful place. In particular, the hospital is right on the water with an operating theatre that boasts ocean views and a helipad that's sitting on top of water. I fondly remember one particular morning when one of the senior doctors walked through the ED at 7.50am in a wetsuit and spear gun over shoulder before getting changed for the morning handover, as he’d just gone fishing off the hospital prior to starting his shift.
I was provided the opportunity to help do the GP outreach clinics on the outer islands with some of the doctors from the hospital, which involved travelling to the islands via helicopter for the day. It just exposed me to a completely different, underappreciated part of Australia in the Torres Strait and that health and medicine is so important to every region in Australia. We've got such a vast and beautiful country. It was really nice to experience that and I don't think I would have gone up there otherwise.
This year I was fortunate to do a six-month extended rural placement at the Ayr Hospital. This experience stands out for me in particular as nine of the doctors who ran the hospital were JCU Medicine graduates and worked with the Rural Generalist Pathway. It was such a lovely experience, as someone wanting to follow a similar pathway, to be able to work with senior doctors in that field who were so welcome, genuine and willing to teach.
I was in Ayr from January through to late May, during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. It was quite scary at the time. Being a small rural hospital, it wasn't initially set up to handle a potential large-scale pandemic and there's a high proportion of vulnerable population in the Burdekin, particularly the older generation of farmers. I was lucky that my placement wasn’t disrupted, but there was definitely a quite a big fear that if some of the people in the hospital fell ill with COVID they'd potentially have to shut down. But as it turned out, we only had one case that came from Brisbane, via Townsville, that isolated and we had no other issues.
I felt like those six months did so much for me in terms of my confidence in becoming an intern next year. It cemented for me that I wanted to apply for the Rural Generalist Pathway, which I did, and I'll start next year.