Patient Histories, ED Shifts, Christmas Dinners and Community Trivia Nights

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The JFPP experience has been very eye-opening – the rural lifestyle is quite different to what I expected, in a very good way.

My JFPP placement lasted two weeks; I arrived on Saturday 24 November and left on Sunday 9 December, 2018. I went to the Victorian town of Echuca, which sits right on the border between Victoria and New South Wales. I stayed with a fantastic host, Dianne, and completed my placement with the lovely doctor Dr Rifat at Rich River Health Group. I honestly had the most amazing two weeks, got to learn an incredible amount of new medical information and clinical skills, and got to experience the rural aspect of healthcare in Australia (to which I have never before been exposed). I also met an amazing group of people along the way and am incredibly grateful that I not only got to experience the past two weeks but will also get to return next year!

My host Dianne was a lovely lady who showed me around town on the weekends and spent a lot of time making sure I was comfortable and was having a good experience. I arrived on Sunday night at the train station, from where Dianne picked me up. She insisted on making me dinner every night, and would take me to Coles to make sure I had plenty to take for lunch and snacks. Dianne and I would eat dinner together every night, and often afterwards we would watch a TV show together such as Blue Murder – we both bonded a lot over our love of crime shows and mystery solving.

Over the course of my placement Dianne took me to and showed me around the following places in Echuca and Moama (the neighbouring town to Echuca):

  • Moama Bowls Club

  • Moama Golf Club

  • Moama RSL Club

  • Moama Botanical Gardens

  • Local sporting ovals and velodrome

  • High Street, the main street in the centre of Echuca, which is full of restaurants, shops and gift stores (including the famous Echuca ‘Christmas shop’)

  • Port of Echuca

  • Multiple restaurants for lunch/dinner over a number of days, usually on the weekends: Echuca Hotel Restaurant, local pub, Sunago’s (local Greek restaurant), Shebani’s (local Mediterranean restaurant)

  • Local cinema, Paramount Echuca, where we watched the new movie “A Star is Born” together

My workplace was the Rich River Health Group (the clinic where Dr Rifat works). I met many of the administrative staff, nurses, other GPs and GP registrars. I was invited to the workplace Christmas Dinner, which took place at the Moama Bowls Club. We played lawn bowls and had a great dinner afterwards, and I got to know my coworkers better. This was a daunting experience since I had only been at the practice for a few days when I was invited but everyone was very welcoming!

The registrars at Rich River Health Group also have a group of friends with some of the local pharmacists, and this group of friends go to a local restaurant at the Shamrock Hotel every Thursday evening for their “Trivia Night”. I was invited on my second week and went with them – we ordered dinner and drinks and stayed for the whole quiz night, I had a great time meeting everyone.

Dr Rifat was a very patient doctor who was willing to let me ask any questions I had (regardless of how silly or small they were), and he let me start to gain some clinical skills. I have never had any clinical experience before but over my placement I did the following things:

Sat in with Dr Rifat on all GP consultations and took notes/asked questions/observed how to take a history and examine patients with particular conditions

Took patient blood pressure readings

Gave injections of Prolia, EPO, Vitamin B12 and Depo Provera to multiple patients

Helped Dr Rifat during skin excision procedures by cleaning excess blood during the procedure and cutting his sutures (during this process I also learnt the correct way to put on sterile surgical gloves)

Follower Dr Rifat during his shift in the local hospital Emergency Department (this was on a Saturday so did not interfere with GP consultations). I also visited the hospital early on some weekdays, before the start of the GP clinic consultations, with Dr Rifat to see some of his private patients.

Watched some exercise stress tests be done with a separate doctor, Dr Waldron, and learnt to interpret some basic and complex ECG’s

Dr Rifat invited me to come to dinner with him and some of his friends at the end of the first week to a great local restaurant, Shebani’s. He picked me up from my host’s house and also dropped me home which was very kind. We had a 3-course meal and I got to know him and his wife, Pat, a lot better, as well meeting some of his close family friends (which I will most likely see again next year). Pat and Dr Rifat also invited me to their home on a separate night. They made some amazing Arabian food and I met their 2 dogs and got a full tour of their house – they were very lovely and also did an amazing job of trying to make me feel comfortable.

I have become a lot more confident in my abilities and knowledge as a medical student. Seeing what I’ve learnt about in lectures in real life, in the context of a patient who is experiencing the problem I have been taught about, really cements your learning and helps you to retain information much better. I have also become more confident in my abilities to learn in a clinical environment and feel much more prepared for my upcoming clinical rotations this year.

This experience has also helped me realise that learning in a rural environment is a fantastic way to learn – I love the rural lifestyle and think I would get so much more experience learning in a rural environment compared to a metro clinic. I hope to be able to train in a rural hospital(s) at some point for a few years and I never had this view before doing the program.

I love the way the community all seem to know each other, and I love the fact that as a doctor you get to see your patients on a much more of regular basis and, from what I experienced, get to know them a lot better than you do as a metropolitan doctor. I was lucky enough to be allocated a fantastic host and a lovely doctor, both of whom wanted me to get as much out of the program as possible.

While in Echuca, I got to learn a lot about the town and was able to see many different sites while I was there. I also was given multiple opportunities to become socially involved with work colleagues and their friends/partners, which helped me to get to know the wider community.

I learnt a lot of clinical knowledge which I didn’t have at all before I left for the placement. I got the chance to put my theoretical knowledge to practice as well as learn a lot of theory which I haven’t covered before. I am really looking forward to coming next year, when I will be given the opportunity to take patient history’s and learn even more.

~ Kriti Sharma, JFPP Scholar

JFPPJFPP Scholar, Victoria