By Ruby Marslen 22/8/2020
Surgery in regional and rural Victoria is a unique opportunity for learning as a student, whether you are surgically inclined or not! I’ve been placed in in Lakes Entrance and Bendigo in 4th year and 5th year and have had the opportunity to be involved in procedures from skin excisions in the GP setting, to assisting with suturing in caesarean lists! I spoke to a friend who is has also spent some time in rural and regional Victoria and asked him to share his experiences!
“I have spent time on surgical teams at Bendigo Hospital during 3rd and 5th year and my experience overall has been extremely positive and rewarding. Regardless of your surgical interest or lack thereof, Bendigo’s surgical teams are a great place to learn and become involved in the care of patients.
I have had placements on several general surgical teams with different focusses such as thoracic, head and neck, breast and endocrine, plastics, as well as colorectal surgery. This unique approach to general surgery is popular in regional and rural environments and allows for a greater breadth of exposure to different types of surgeries while on a single team as a student. I have also spent time on specialist teams such as orthopaedics and urology, with a brief opportunity to see some ophthalmology in the form of cataract surgery.
The most positive aspect I have found while working with these teams has been the level of engagement as a student. The surgeons and registrars are always happy to have you involved and participating in whatever task is at hand, and due to the low number of allocated students (2-4 students total per team) the barrier to entry is often very low. Access to theatre is great and depending on the procedure, getting scrubbed and assisting is very welcome. Prior to PPE restrictions due to COVID I was scrubbing into at least 1-2 procedures each list.
Clinics are also a space where you can get involved and gain some independence as a student. As a 5th year you are expected to see your own patients during outpatient clinics. This involves taking a history, exam, relevant investigations and reporting back to your consultant/registrar with a management plan. This has continued even with phone consults becoming popular during COVID. You are also expected to write notes and dictate a letter to the patient’s GP with the outcome of your consultation – a valuable skill to learn for internship.
Surgery in a regional/rural setting is never stagnant and this year I had the opportunity to see a fairly rare occurrence by Bendigo’s standards – an organ procurement. In fact, I saw not only one, but two procurements, two days in a row. This was made possible by the fact that there were no other students present in that theatre and the very welcoming nature of regional hospital theatre staff. Those experiences were some of the highlights of my year and not something I would have initially expected to see during my time in rural Victoria.”
So I encourage you to take on the opportunity to get involved in surgery on your rural rotation. I can assure you that you will be exposed to many unique learning opportunities, hands-on procedures and meet some inspiring mentors!
(Special thanks to Michael Francis for your contribution!)