While a waterfront location for a hospital must be rare, I think the location of St Bernard’s Hospital is unique. Towards the east, across the bay of Gibraltar lies Spain, while towards the south, across the strait of Gibraltar lies the African continent. On a clear day you can even see villages in Morocco.

Aside from marvelling about the hospital’s location, over the last two weeks I spent time in Orthopaedics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Both were important subjects for me to test my knowledge in as my exposure was limited to the GP clinic and the occasional consultant visiting Balclutha during the year I spent there as an RMIP student.

View from the back door of St Bernard's Hospital.

View from the back door of St Bernard's Hospital. Rock of Gibraltar (left), Africa's Jebel Musa is the mountain in the distance.

My week in Orthopaedics started with a day in theatre. Never having been to an orthopaedic operation before, it struck me as a curious balance between brute force and meticulous precision as sawing, drilling and chiselling bone was interposed with precise measurements of limb length and joint angle.

My role was to tug on the limbs to make sure the limb length and angle was correct. While the operations were interesting, I must admit that I found it a lot more tiring than I should have. It seems I am going to have to work on my fitness before the football season starts.

The remainder of my week was spent in the clinic, seeing common things such as arthritis, broken bones and sprained ankles. My role here was thankfully much less physical as mostly I observed the consultant. Although I was just observing, my time in the clinic helped me develop more belief in my training as in many cases I was able to work out the diagnosis based on the consultant’s history and examination.

The Obstetrics and Gynaecology department in Gibraltar sees approximately 400 deliveries per year. My week in O&G started with a bang – by Monday lunchtime I had observed a delivery. I also saw another baby born by Caesarian on the Wednesday, but most of my time was again spent in the clinic.

During one memorable consultation, the specialist turned to me and asked me to do an ultrasound scan on a woman who was 12 weeks pregnant. I agreed to have a go, but with no experience doing ultrasounds I did not expect any success. To my surprise, I was able to locate the baby, identifying the head, limbs and heartbeat.

As a student, I usually get a sense of satisfaction when completing a procedure correctly for the first time and this was no different. However, this encounter was unlike the others as the patient was able to share in the excitement with me (for some reason most patients don’t get excited when they get catheterised or jabbed with a needle).

Sights on a weekend trip to Ronda

Sights on a weekend trip to Ronda

Outside of hospital, I have been able to escape the claustrophobia of Gibraltar’s densely-packed apartment blocks with weekend jaunts into the Spanish countryside, including the picturesque town of Ronda. While my weekends in Andalucia were relaxing, living and working in a place as densely populated as Gibraltar has made me appreciate the wide open spaces of rural New Zealand even more.

In all, the last fortnight at the hospital delivered what I had hoped it would; experience in areas that I was unsure of myself and there were some pretty rewarding moments along the way. It’s hard to believe how quickly time is flying, I’ve only got two weeks left before I return to New Zealand and put my elective to good use.