The past few days I have been in Bairnsdale hospital. As James describes in his blog, GPs are common place on the wards and in theatre, looking after their own patients as required. The community feel of the hospital extends further than this; the people of Bairnsdale appear to truly value their health facility and support it at every opportunity.

Monash University, based in Melbourne, has set up a significant rural medical teaching school in East Gippsland with major centres in both Sale (a little closer to Melbourne where Matt is based) and here in Bairnsdale. Students are either post-graduate doing a four year program, or undergrads doing five years. Of the ten fourth year students here (the equivalent to fifth year for us) three are based here in Bairnsdale, with the others living in smaller peripheral centres up to an hour away. Once a week they all assemble here for formal teaching but spend the rest of their time in peripheral clinics, in the hospital or on call in maternity.

Both the rural GP clinics and the hospital have embraced the students as a part of the team. Nursing staff and doctors alike interact with the students on a professional level and I have felt most welcome in every area I’ve been. The patients are always happy to have a student involved with their care and seem to enjoy helping out. Further there are a number of enthusiastic recently graduated interns, the equivalent of our first year house surgeons. Those who have just finished med school are always a little more sympathetic towards the plight of a student and take a bit more time out to explain and discuss cases. Over the past week or so I have really appreciated the way the Melbourne and East Gippsland community has adopted me and made me feel welcome. I have had opportunities to do procedures for the first time and met a range of patients with all manner of conditions and seamlessly become incorporated into the team.

I like to draw parallels with medicine in rural NZ. Through the year so far in Queenstown I have seen locals show considerable passion and support for the Lakes Hospital and other medical facilities. Further I have always felt welcomed by the staff and overwhelmed by the generosity of the patients and enjoyed watching the community feel of a small town hospital. That’s one of the special things about rural health, and a definite attraction for future career decisions.