Wednesday and Thursday saw me in Lakes Entrance, a small lakeside (funny that!) township which is bustling in the summertime but gets a bit sleepier during the winter. I worked with a couple of GP’s and the practice nurses whilst I was there. It was a busy GP practice and very similar to that of the rural clinics I have worked in back here.

The nurses were all very capable and have a very hands on job. I got to help out with lots of blood taking, venesections, INR monitoring and investigations such as ECGs and spirometry. The GPs had me taking histories and examining patients. I helped with a skin lesion excision and also got to sit in with a diabetes nurse to educate a newly diagnosed diabetic on their insulin therapy.

One of the more interesting cases included a young 9 year old boy who has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. His parents have had a lot of problems with his behaviour and is beginning to impact on his younger sister as well. Her friends parents are no longer happy for their children to visit her which is impacting her social relationships.

The boy has been seen by paediatricians and psychiatrists all who have had no success in the treatment of him. The situation is beginning to become dangerous as he is getting stronger, striking out physically more often and has been known the threaten his parents and others in the community. The worry is that he will do something serious such as assault someone.

I felt it was one of those difficult situations for a doctor where the right path is quite vague. Do we commit this patient under the mental health act? If we do, what are we going to do for him, what can be done for him? If we don’t are we just waiting for something to happen when perhaps we should have acted earlier? It was decided to refer the patient to a specialist behavioural pshycologist for further input.

After my time in Lakes Entrance it was time to say goodbye to my fellow Australian students. I felt so fortunate to have meet such a great bunch of people who were interested in rural health like I am. Hopefully we can keep in contact so I can find out where they all end up in the future.

My last weekend in Australia was spent in Melbourne with Mary, the other NZ student in Victoria and we did typical touristy things like visit the Melbourne museum (which conveniently had a human body expo on at the time!) and go to an Aussie Rules game.

Overall, I had a fantastic time in Australia. It was wonderful to experience rural health in a different place and compare it to our system back here in NZ. I found many similarities between the two countries especially when it comes to indigenous health. I met some incredible doctors including the GP’s who have specialist post graduate training in anaesthetics or obstetrics. I thought this scheme was an excellent idea giving GPs the ability to upskill and be more procedural and hands on. I feel this is a very important aspect especially for some of the GPs in New Zealand who are very isolated. I feel it is a shame that GPs no longer specialise in obstetrics in NZ as this was often a highlight in their practice.

However nobody knows what the future holds and medical practice is always changing so anything is possible! I look forward to finding out first hand what does happen in Rural Health in NZ.

I would finally like to thank the Pat Farry Trust for making this exchange possible. It was a brilliant educational adventure and has further sparked my interest in Rural Health.