The first student doctors from Charles Sturt University in Orange have started their placements in rural locations, with five of them working from Parkes through our district for the next three years.
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Their welcomed arrival has been made possible thanks to the Rural Generalist Placement Program through the new School of Rural Medicine with Charles Sturt and Western Sydney University, who are jointly delivering the Doctor of Medicine.
Its aim is to train future doctors locally in the hope many of them will stay as practicing doctors in rural communities experiencing healthcare shortages.
The third-year students are with the Central West Clinical School - one of the clinical schools established through the program and covers Parkes, Forbes, Grenfell, Cowra - bringing their skills and knowledge to local residents.
They will be based in Parkes full-time with secondment opportunities in Forbes, Cowra and Grenfell, and will remain here during their fourth and fifth year studies until the completion of their degree.
During this time, students will rotate between different hospitals, general practices and community health services, gaining valuable clinical skills under supervision while developing relationships and connections with the community.
Charles Sturt Associate Professor in Medicine and head of the Central West Clinical Region Dr Kerrie Stewart, a former GP in Parkes, said they'll also visit Trundle, Peak Hill and Condobolin.
"They're ours, we hope they stay!" An excited Professor Stewart said.
Their accommodation is taken care of with the support of Parkes Shire Council and the use of council-owned residences.
The School of Rural Medicine is still in its infancy with its first cohort of students beginning their studies just two years ago and Professor Stewart said it was a fantastic milestone for the school, students and rural healthcare.
She said the approach of the placements was tailored to the needs and nuances of rural and regional communities.
"The Rural Generalist Placement Program is an opportunity for students to experience the broad range of health services provided by rural generalists," Professor Stewart said.
"Every placement will reflect the health priorities in each area while also assisting students to gain clinical medical skills to assist a range of conditions that often arise across communities."
The third-year curriculum covers clinical medicine, including general practice, medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, and community health.
The placement is immersive learning at its best, Professor Stewart said, as well as fully immersing them into the community.
"We integrate them into the community in every way, shape and form," she said.
That includes visiting community groups such as the Parkes Que Club and taking part in activities and events.
"Students will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of rural generalist medicine and of the roles of rural generalists, including general practitioners and specialists working collegially with them to benefit rural health outcomes in a community," Professor Stewart said.
"Students will gain first-hand insights into the patient's journey through the health system and the role each health provider contributes to patient care."
Third-year student of the Doctor of Medicine Jessica Skelly from Crookwell said she was looking forward to the experience and clinical insights she anticipated the placement would offer.
"I couldn't be more excited for third-year placement," she said.
"I've always learned best when there is a patient with a real clinical picture attached, and clinical environments are where I thrive."
Ms Skelly welcomed the opportunity to be conducting her placement in the Central West.
"One of the benefits of third-year will be forging relationships with doctors, nurses, and multidisciplinary health teams throughout the Central West region," she said.
Another third-year student studying the Doctor of Medicine Oscar Ricardo from Walgett said it felt rewarding to be able to apply the knowledge learnt in first-year and second-year in a clinical setting.
"I like the idea of being placed across several different hospitals," he said.
"Learning within different workforces and settings will provide alternative perspectives on healthcare, allowing for a more rounded education and understanding of the role of a doctor within the hospital."
Mr Ricardo is hoping to complete his internship and resident years in either Tamworth, Dubbo, Orange, Wagga Wagga or Albury.
"This year I will be applying for the Rural Doctors Network Cadetship and if I am successful, it will mean that I am committing to completing my intern and resident years at any of those communities," he said.
The Charles Sturt Doctor of Medicine is a five-year undergraduate degree.
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