Medical student’s passion for rural health

RURAL PRACTISE: Rebecca Irwin is undertaking her long term placement in Batemans Bay to become a doctor. THE Eurobodalla has become the perfect training ground for aspiring doctors and medical staff who want experience in rural health.
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Long-term placement student Rebecca Irwin is putting two years of theory into practice in the shire.

Mrs Irwin is a third-year medical student now studying at the Batemans Bay campus of the Australian National University (ANU) Rural Clinical School.

She is dividing her time this year between Batemans Bay Hospital emergency department, the Queen Street Medical Centre in Moruya and another GP.

She will also gain surgical experience.

The former Central Coast resident has relished her time here.

“It has been absolutely fantastic,” she said.

“I am in the Batemans Bay emergency department and it has been hands-on straight away,” she said.

“I have got to see patients and practise clinical skills.

“It is so great to finally be doing clinical (work) and practising all the theory.”

As vice-chairperson of the National Rural Student Health Network, Mrs Irwin is passionate about the sector.

“I am on a medical rural bonded scholarship, so I have to give six years back in a rural area, but I chose to do that because I was already going to go to a rural area,” she said.

“I am passionate about introducing those from urban areas, who are interested in medicine, to the rural side of it.

“We expose the urban students to a rural lifestyle, hoping to get them engaged.”

Mrs Irwin decided in year 11 she wanted to study medicine and, after her HSC, studied nursing.

“I was a registered nurse working primarily in a clinical environment, so getting out of lecture theatres has been fantastic,” she said.

“I did achieve the results I needed in the HSC, however I didn’t get the undergraduate Medical Admissions Test results required.

“Once I started nursing, I realised it was the best decision I ever made.

“Nursing made me go, ‘yes, this is what I want to do’.”

“I did my new graduate year in nursing and then applied to the ANU and got in on a scholarship.”

Mrs Irwin felt lucky to be having such a positive experience.

“I already feel a part of the team,” she said.

“As soon as I walk in, everyone is like ‘hey, how are you going?’.

“I guess that is the difference between regional and city.”

The highlight so far of her time at Batemans Bay Hospital has been learning how to insert an intravenous catheter.

“That has been the most awesome thing I have learnt,” she said.

“Being able to practise all my examinations on real people has been fantastic.

“Learning how to adapt procedures, depending on the circumstances, has been good too.”

After two years of clinical work, Rebecca Irwin hopes to work as a doctor in a rural general practice – but it does not look as though the Eurobodalla will get to keep her.

“Leaving Batemans Bay will be hard,” she said.

“My husband and I have really settled in here and love it.

“After this year we go back to Canberra for one year and then we (students) start applying for internships.

“ANU graduates are guaranteed an internship with ACT Health and Batemans Bay Hospital doesn’t take internships, so here isn’t an option.

“I want to do a rural internship, so I am looking up the coast.”

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