A taste of rural medicine
I did three big rural placements during my years at med school. They were my first taste of the rural hospital experience, and I’d have to say they were the highlight of JCU medicine.
The first two were in Ingham and my final placement was in Hughenden. I loved them all. I was with a few of my mates in Ingham in second-year and they got us to do a lot of hands-on things and be really involved in the care of the patients. When I went back in fourth-year I knew the doctors, the town and how the hospital worked. It was going back into a very familiar environment. They’re all really great doctors and the placement was very seamless.
My favourite placement though was Hughenden in my sixth-year. Hughenden is a small country town four hours west of Townsville with only one doctor managing both the GP practice and the hospital. It was an amazing experience to see how it was done. The doctor I met out there, Dr Cathy Reto, is an inspiration. She worked as the only doctor in town on a ‘three weeks on, one week off’ basis. She was on-call all the time. She would round in the hospital in the morning, before going to run the GP practice from nine to five. She’d then return to the hospital and manage all the patients there, as well as all the emergencies. I remember one night a lady came in to give birth and Cathy had to stay up all night with her. The next day the GP clinic and the hospital had to close because she’d had no sleep. It was incredible to see the impact that has on a community. I got to do a lot of things while I was in Hughenden as they wanted as much help as I could give. It was great hands-on experience. The highlight for me was probably all the RFDS and helicopter retrievals. They were very exciting for me, though less so for the patients.
The opportunity to have these experiences and JCU’s emphasis on regional, rural, remote and tropical health have had a big impact on me. I have no desire to leave and work in a big city, but I would definitely like to live and work in a regional or rural centre. JCU does a really good job of showing us what life is like in those situations, and just how good it can be.