I was one of the four lucky RMIP students to get selected to travel to rural Australia for a two-week exchange. Having not been out of the country since I was 12 I was rather excited about the adventure! Unfortunately, I’m not the most relaxed person when it comes to travelling; always having sleepless nights before a flight! As my flights from Hokitika to Christchurch then Christchurch to Melbourne were spread over two days I was running off about 7 hours sleep in 48 hours! Once touched down in Melbourne it was a 4 and a half hour train/bus ride to Bairnsdale, East Gippsland, Victoria (google map it!). I certainly slept well that night!

My first day there was a bit of an intro. The Bairnsdale hospital has four main wards (medical, surgical, rehabilitation and paeds/midwifery) and a bustling ED. There are two operating theatres a psychiatric inpatient unit and dialysis facilities. The hospital is a GP-run hospital where every patient is under the care of their GP. The GP’s visit the patients daily to organise the plan with the other medical staff. Junior doctors and senior physicians/surgeons on the wards then carry out the agreed plan and manage anything else that may arise during the day. There is a lot of multidisciplinary support including numerous community-based organisations. Ambulance and air transfers are made for any cases that require ICU-level care to Sale or Melbourne.

There are 9 medical students in and around Bairnsdale. They each have a base GP practice where they are most of the time. They then rotate around the different services such as obstetrics, psychiatry and theatre depending on the visiting specialists. Every Monday and Friday they have tutorials with local doctors or via video-conferencing. I slotted into these tutorials on my first day which was a great way to get to meet the other students and find out all the info I needed from them!

My second day in Bairnsdale I spent on the Medical ward. The first thing I noticed was that I knew none of the drug names the staff were using! The majority of drugs prescribed in Australia are specific brands unlike NZ where we mainly prescribe drugs under their generic name. I was continually having to ask both doctors and patients what each of the medications actually were! Other than that I slotted into ward-life relatively smoothly, admitting patients and helping where I could. I sat in on a very interesting Parkinson’s Disease talk where Movement Strategy Training was discussed. It is a strategy that has been developed to help Parkinson’s patients with their motor function and overcome bradykinesia (hesitating or freezing) by getting patients to break down each movement and really concentrate on what they are doing. It was fascinating to watch videos and see the improvement in PD patients walking and moving .

My first couple of days here have been great so far even if it is taking a bit to get used to the new system! I’m spending the next two days in GP and theatre so no doubt there will be new things to come across there too!