After a jam-packed, whirlwind four days in Melbourne city, seeing the sights, drinking lots of coffees, exploring the multiple hidden lane-way bars and catching up with old friends and family, I was well ready for a retreat back to rural life.

The 3-hour train ride through the surprisingly green farmland from Melbourne city up to Bairnsdale gave me plenty of time to relax, unwind and get mentally prepared for what I was heading towards and practice my accent, as one thing that I had picked up in Melbourne was that I was pronouncing the name of the town completely wrong. It’s not “Bahnsdale” (with posh English accent) but “Bairnsdale” (with a very strong Aussie twang), as locals who had no idea where I was talking about when trying to explain where I was headed soon taught me.

Bairnsdale Regional Health Service Hospital

Bairnsdale Regional Health Service Hospital

The reality of leaving the excitement of Melbourne and heading out into the wops of Australia finally hit me when the train stopped in Sale, and we had a 45-minute wait for the bus to take us the rest of the journey to Bairnsdale, and the only coffee available was a $1 instant from a dire looking machine in the corner.

Coupled with my irrational fears of getting off the bus in a random outback town with no one expecting me there and being lost and alone, I began to wonder what on earth I was doing here. But all fears were soon allayed as I got off the bus and found my host med student waiting for me, who gave me a very friendly welcome and a tour around the flat, which incidentally is provided by their Med School for $100/week, power and wi-fi included! (NZ should definitely look into this one).

We went out for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with another med student and spent the night comparing experiences of our different rural med schools and bonding over the stress of upcoming exams and all of the other first world problems that come with being a med student.

Monday morning brought my holidays to an end, but with a 9.30am start I wasn’t too upset about it. (GP’s starting at 9.30am should also definitely be brought into NZ). I was introduced to the MONASH staff at the teaching centre and taken on a tour around their rural teaching facility which included a number of tutorial rooms, a student room, and their simulation centre which had about 7 full bodied mannequins including a fully functional Sim-Man and a Sim-Mum who gives birth!

Monash School of Rural Health

Monash School of Rural Health

It was quite amazing to see that their small regional teaching centre had so many more simulation resources than our main teaching centre in Christchurch, and their support services were so much greater out in the rural areas, although admittedly they do have a lot more students in each rural area than we do in NZ.

I was then taken on a tour of the hospital, which has a Surgical ward, a Medical ward, a Rehab ward and small Women’s and Children’s wards, and then found my way to ED where I spent the rest of the day. I began to feel at home again in the familiar clinical environment, as their ED was pretty similar to Wairau hospital, just a bit smaller. I interviewed and examined patients on my own, and helped clean up a few minor cuts and lacerations, including a finger impaled on a lanyard clip, and then naively got hailed down for a very lengthy demonstration by a overly friendly rep promoting a new type of cannula they were trialling in the department.

The doctor’s supervising me were very helpful, friendly and willing to teach me on points that I really should have known already, but first day back after holidays who can really recite the Ottowa ankle rules backwards or whip out all of the points of the Wells score at the drop of a hat? Overall I had a great first day here in Bairnsdale. It was exciting to get back into the clinical environment and to get a feel of what life is like for rural med students across the ditch. I have a pretty packed timetable for the next two weeks so shall keep updating on my progress and further adventures!

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