Bega Valley welcomes 2018 ANU medical students for one-year rural placement

ANU medical students Hillary McArthur, Georgie Howard, Kayla Venn, Rachael McCormick, Rebecca Wardell, Oscar Hatten and Martin Schutte have a year placement at SERH.
ANU medical students Hillary McArthur, Georgie Howard, Kayla Venn, Rachael McCormick, Rebecca Wardell, Oscar Hatten and Martin Schutte have a year placement at SERH.

A group of medical students from the Australian National University are looking forward to putting theory into practice during a one-year placement in the Bega Valley. 

The students were part of a visit to Bombala and district in August last year that gave them a small taste of practising medicine in a regional area.

It appears that taste made them hungry for more as seven students have made the move from Canberra to continue their third year of study in a more intimate and hands-on role.

Others from the ANU Medical Rural Stream Program class of 25 will be taking up a similar placement at Cooma Hospital.

The group’s academic coordinator, Dr Erika Jaensch, said this year would be more like an apprenticeship than a university course for the students. 

“Instead of books they’re going to be learning from patients, clinicians and getting that first hand experience, whether it be in surgery, medicine, emergency or general practice,” she said. 

“This smaller, rural setting gives the students more direct contact with patients and that is a real benefit we see reflected in their assessment down the track.”

[SERH] is an amazing setting, the views across the rolling, verdant hills through the hospital windows are incredible, obviously you have nothing like it in city placements.

Oscar Hatten, ANU medical student

Dr Jaensch said these placements attracted medical professionals back to the region. 

“The first two medical students to study at Bega Rural Clinical School back in 2006 have actually come back this year to take up jobs at South East Regional Hospital,” she said. 

Dr Jeff Van Ganglen and Dr Nathan Oates have recently joined the medical staff at SERH. A number of other general practitioners have also returned to the Bega Valley after their rural placements. 

“This is why it is so important to make sure these students really gel into the community, it’s in our benefit to see them back here one day,” Dr Jaensch said.

Coming to Bega hasn’t been the biggest move of ANU student Rachael McCormick’s academic journey, having moved from New Zealand to Canberra to study medicine.

“I’m really happy to be in Bega, I’ve been looking forward to getting into the rural placement and being back near the beach,” she said. 

Ms McCormick grew up outside Auckland where her mother was a nurse, so she feels at home in a small town medical environment.

Bega is a really popular location among ANU students, it’s close to the beach and has the most modern hospital, so it’s quite competitive to land a spot here.

Kayla Venn, ANU medical student

Oscar Hatten also relocated to Canberra to begin his medical degree, moving from his family home in Melbourne. He is very impressed with SERH building. 

ANU medical students tour the Bombala Hospital with Dr Emma Cunningham in August 2017.

ANU medical students tour the Bombala Hospital with Dr Emma Cunningham in August 2017.

“It’s an amazing setting, the views across the rolling, verdant hills through the hospital windows are incredible, obviously you have nothing like it in city placements.

“Patients aren’t removed from their environment and I think that’s a really positive thing about this hospital.”

Academically, Mr Hatten is looking forward to improving his skills in a more intimate learning environment with closer relationships to his mentors. 

“But outside of studying, I’m hoping to make the most of the beach, go surfing, meet new people and get used to calling Bega home.”

Georgie Howard and Kayla Venn both grew up in Canberra and are both excited about their first experience living independently. 

“I’ve never been to Bega before but I really like it already, I feel very supported to embrace the change,” Ms Howard said. 

Ms Venn added that the group of seven students were very lucky to get the placement. 

“Bega is a really popular location among ANU students, it’s close to the beach and has the most modern hospital, so it’s quite competitive to land a spot here,” she said. 

The students will spend the entire academic year in the Bega Valley as part of an elective Rural Stream Program and rotate through a number of medical practices, surgeries and hospitals in the region. 

Over 50 students have now come to Bega through the program since its inception in 2006.

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