A country practice for medical students

Bronwen Newman, Savisha Fernando and Dr Nicholas O'Ryan.
Bronwen Newman, Savisha Fernando and Dr Nicholas O'Ryan.

Medical students Jolande Ma and Savisha Fernando agree that their community placements with local GPs in Cowra and Canowindra have been one of the highlights of their year studying rural medicine at the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health (SRH) in Orange.

Savisha Fernando has loved her time in Canowindra where she has seen that building patient rapport and trust is key to success in rural communities.  

“Being a GP in a small community like Canowindra is so different to being one in a big city.  We need to figure out what needs to be put in place once the patient gets home and work with allied health services to provide support.  I hadn’t considered a career in rural medicine before my placement but I’ve been surprised at how much I have liked it and I’m definitely considering a rural career now.  Everyone in Canowindra has made me feel very welcome – thank you” Savisha said.

Dr Nicholas O’Ryan said “Rural GPs need to have a holistic overview of the patient’s care - we are true generalists and we don’t know what each day will bring – treating emergency patients at the hospital, or treating patients in the practice. It really is cradle to grave medicine.”

Dr David Richmond from Cowra Medical Associates, one of the host GPs feels strongly about exposing medical students to the rural GP environment.

“We have a long history of giving students placements at the practice” Dr Richmond said.

 “Unless you expose students to the rural environment they won’t know about it. When I was a student there were very limited opportunities to experience rural medicine, so when students come to the practice we organise a varied program that gives them a taste of what it is really like to be a doctor in Cowra.”

Jolande Ma has just spent three weeks with the Cowra Medical Associates.  

“My placement program included time with the physios, in emergency, in the operating theatre, as well as with the nurses and with the registrars at the hospital.  I have even seen a baby being delivered” she said.

Each year the School of Rural Health brings 64 medical students to Orange and Dubbo for a year of their degree.

Living here for 12 months, they study and train with local doctors and specialists. But most importantly, they experience what it’s like to live and practice in a regional area. After studying at the SRH, many are convinced that they would like a career in rural medicine and often return here to practice. In this way, the SRH is proud to be helping to increase the numbers of doctors in the local community.

The School of Rural Health has been a part of the Central West in Dubbo and Orange since 2001.