ANU med students’ rural checkup at Bombala

Twenty-five budding doctors visited Bombala on Wednesday to get a taste of what it might be like if they chose to practice here in the future.

The students are in their second year of study at ANU and have selected a rural stream component to the course.

It means their third year will involve placement at one of a number of rural and regional hospitals around central and southern NSW – including Cooma.

Their placement won’t be at Bombala as the multi-purpose health service does not have a doctor there full-time in order to provide supervised learning. But that’s exactly the issue course electives like ANU’s rural medicine stream is out to rectify.

After a tour of the facilities with local doctor and Rural Doctors Association president Emma Cunningham, a free lunch at the Bombala RSL put on by the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, and a highly amusing anecdote-filled talk from long-time local GP Dr Colin Pate, many of the students appeared enthusiastic about a future in rural medicine.

Dr Pate spoke on what has changed in rural medicine over the years – like telehealth and helicopters – and what hasn’t – like humour and the honour of working for a appreciative community.

“If you’re going to practice something so important, do it in a place where it’s important you’re there,” Dr Pate said.

Kayla Venn grew up in the ACT with South African heritage and had her eyes opened after a morning assisting a nurse with wound care at Cooma Hospital.

“They have few resources and work within a limited budget, but she knew who everyone was when they came in, asked them about their families – they loved her,” Ms Venn said.

For Henry Williams, who will spend next year at Young Hospital, it was all about the potential of more hands-on experience the students would likely get at a rural hospital as opposed to a metro one.

“It’s an extraordinary learning experience that continues from the hospital out into the community,” Mr Williams said. “Locals are so much more accommodating.”