Alyce - Medicine  

In 2013 Alyce, studying Medicine at the University of Melbourne, was a Health Ambassador. In this video she shares her experience while on placement in the Torres Strait. (Note: Audio quality is poor in subtitled parts - you can read a transcript below)

Vidlog#1: My Torres Strait placement

Transcript: My Torres Strait placement

"Hi, my name’s Alyce Wilson and I’m just recording from Thursday Island, where I’ve done a John Flynn Placement over the last two weeks.

So, at the moment I’m on Thursday Island and behind me there’s Prince of Wales and Fire Island over that way and it’s very interesting being out here very different.

There’s a lot of islands throughout the Torres Strait and we get a lot of different cases here which makes placement here really interesting.

So I’ve been here on a John Flynn scholarship, which basically is a program by the Australian Government to encourage medical students to go rural and remote.

So, um, I’m very lucky to have been able to come to the Torres Strait because here we have a hospital, we have a primary health care centre, and we also, there’s a treaty with Papua New Guinea so sometimes there’s some patients that come down from there as well, so you get to see a wide range of different, um, conditions and tropical medicine and it’s a really good placement.

So, basically, if, um, in any kind of degree if you’re doing medicine or nursing or, um, even education, or law even, there’s always a lot of opportunities offered by the government to try and get people to go rural and remote.

So, I really encourage you to have a look at the scholarships that are available and see if any of them are applicable to you, and it’s well worth getting out there and seeing other parts of Australia.

So, um yeah, have a look at the scholarships available and yawo (goodbye) from the Torres Strait.

Gary - Medicine

Gary, studying Medicine at the University of Melbourne, is a Wiradjuri man and he grew up in a country town. He is the first in his family to go to uni. Gary was  a Health Ambassador for LEAP in 2013 and he shared some of his experiences in these videos and a humourous text blog.

Gary : My pathway-School to Medicine


Gary Vidlog#1: Why I chose a Health career

 Blog#1 - Gary tries his hand at suturing (posted 10 Sep 2013)

Yiradhu marang (in Wiradjuri language) or hello!

Now you know the life of a medical student is a busy one and we do spend a lot of hours studying (striving for greatness!). So I’m going to skip through the things like lectures on the brain, hormones, psychology, dissection and jump into an experience that I found challenging and rewarding.

The General Practitioner Student Network recently organised a ‘suturing skills’ night. Wikipedia defines suturing as holding body tissues together after an injury of surgery, using a needle and thread. However, you can’t just jump in at your local Emergency Department and stitch up your nearest human being. Rather, we found ourselves face to foot (hoof?) with pig trotters because apparently pigs are similar to human beings in many ways – but I don’t think their skin is one of them. 

These guys had really tough skin and resisted our efforts to suture up said wounds. It was incredibly tricky and tedious, yet it is a skill we need to master. I seriously struggled with suturing, while others treated it as though it was the most natural skill in the world.

It was disappointing to find out I wasn’t a natural at suturing, but I went and I gave it a go and when I couldn’t get it right, I had another attempt, until I got something that resembled a suture. Quite often in this course, I find myself hesitating to put my hand up and to have a go for fear of judgement or criticism. However, medicine is quickly teaching me something about the way we perceive ourselves.

There are some incredibly confident students (some of them rightly so) but the majority of us are a mixture of hidden talents and undeveloped skills in need of nurturing. I think many of us are self-critical, which is a good skill to have as a doctor (because arrogance equals mistakes). But there’s a risk we can short-change our abilities or avoid putting ourselves out there for fear of failure or judgement. 

Medical school might seem like a huge challenge (and let’s be honest - it is), but very few fail because this place has a sense of camaraderie between students, staff and the doctors who teach us. It is a different experience (who else would want to stitch up pig trotters?) which tests my abilities and skills every single day, but few goals are unattainable by those who try (and failure is a valuable motivational tool).

I hope this has been a useful post for you guys - writing about medical school and my experiences is another test of my abilities! I have just recently returned from the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education Connection in Darwin, NT, but that’s for another post. For now, here’s a photo of ‘Fluffy’ & me at one of the conference events - to get you thinking! 

Opening Doors to University

This video is from the Opening Doors to University series, produced by the Australian Government, 11 inspirational videos featuring students who overcame adversity to study various professions at university.

If these students can do it, so can you!

Jessica - Medicine & Surgery

Jessica has graduated from a Bachelor of Medical Science.  She is now studying a Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of Surgery.

Jessica has experienced financial hardship throughout her life but she has always been determined to make a difference. Her mother's disability inspired her to go into medical research.

"I would say to other people who are thinking about going to uni but not sure if they can do it, that they should believe in themselves and that it is doable and... there are ways to get around those barriers, and there are people that are there to help you." said Jessica.

A Learning for Life Scholarship from the Smith Family and other support provided by them has helped her to overcome many barriers.

More inspirational profiles in this series

Go to the Department of Industry YouTube channel to view more inspirational video stories, and real-life accounts of the barriers overcome by some students to study in their chosen profession at university.  

Luke - Medicine

Luke is studying the second year of his double degree in Medicine and Surgery. Here he talks about what that involves, how he chose this area of study and the possible directions he would like to follow in his career in Medicine.

"I'm looking at either becoming a Paediatrician, dealing with kids... otherwise an Emergency Physician dealing with trauma, road accidents... both are really interesting fields to me." 

Mairaed - Medicine

Mairaed is studying Medicine at Deakin University, Geelong, after completing her first degree in Biomedical Science. Share Health Ambassador Mairaed's challenging journey via her blog posts and videos.

Vidlog#2: Mairaed's exam tips and tricks


Vidlog#1: Why I chose to study Health

Blog#3 (2014) - My third and fourth placement: General Medicine and Paediatrics
(posted 29 August 2014)

Apologies that this blog post has been delayed. The time commitment of my last two rotations increased significantly which didn’t really leave me with much time for writing blogs amongst all the other assignments I have had due. As such, this blog will be a combination of the last two rotations. I have covered General Medicine which is an area of medicine which basically covers all the major body systems including heart and blood, lungs, brain and nervous system, digestive system, cancers, infectious diseases and a whole host of other weird and wonderful conditions. I also completed my Paediatric rotation, which is essentially another term for children’s medicine and covers everything from teeny tiny babies straight out of the womb right up to young adults and everything in between. Both of these placements have been really enjoyable and I have learnt A LOT SO I hope you enjoy my little overview.

General Medicine placement
This is endearingly called ‘Gen Med’ amongst the students and was a chance to roll up my sleeves and get my hands ‘dirty’. It was a chance to put a lot of my theoretical knowledge from the first two years of medicine into practice on ACTUAL PATIENTS. I was assigned to one of the ward teams and basically attached myself to their hip for seven weeks. I became their little gopher and was in charge of making sure everything was ready for the doctors to perform their ward round each morning. Seeing all the patients each morning really helped to piece together a lot of their illnesses and management. I also became a pro at writing medical notes (its like learning a whole new language with way too many abbreviations and codes), made very good use of my stethoscope and even got to be involved in a few basic medical procedures.

This was a great follow-on from Gen Med. A lot of the basic skills and examinations for each of the body systems can be applied to kids (with a little bit of tweaking and adaptation). Paediatrics has definitely been a highlight of all my clinical placement this year. It has a very different vibe to adult medicine and although much of it is very serious, there is a certain light heartedness and sense of fun that made it particularly enjoyable. My time for this rotation was split amongst the children’s ward at the hospital, seeing children who presented to the emergency department, looking after some very sick children in the intensive care unit, spending time in the special care nursery (the place where premature and sick little babies stay) as well as some community placements. There was always lots to see however examining children requires a certain knack which took a while to get a handle on. Some of the skills I got to practice included:

  • feeding, bathing, dressing and settling the little babies in the special care nursery
  • learning how to catch wee samples from kids in nappies (this is much harder than you might think!)
  • singing nursery rhymes and playing peek-a-boo, an essential skill for making examining children fun

I also learnt some great tools for communicating with parents and met a very cool little four-year-old who decided all by himself that he wanted to be a vegetarian. In my experience, paediatrics is a great profession and a really nice environment to work in and is definitely a medical career path that I will be considering.

Just this week I have started my musculoskeletal placement which has already been very different but interesting. There is a lot of theatre time so hopefully I will have some cool operation stories for you for the next blog. Until then, happy studying.

Blog#2 (2014) - My second placement: Mental Health
(posted 9 May 2014)

So the last 7 weeks has presented another unique experience in my med school studies. I’ve spent the time doing my Mental Health Rotation and have been thrown into the wonderful world of Psychiatry. So here is as synopsis of what I have learnt:

Lesson #1: One of the most important tools that you have as a doctor is your ears
There is something incredibly powerful in letting people tell their stories. And for most patients who suffer from mental illness, no one has ever bothered to listen or advocate for them. In our society, mental health has a stigma attached to it and people that suffer from mental health conditions are often judged or misconceived on the basis of their illness. Despite all the nuances of psychiatric illness, these people suffer from a health condition just like any other illness such as asthma, or diabetes or cardiac disease. So often, these patients are unheard because of this stigma. On numerous occasions I had patients thank me just for listening. I hope that this will be a lesson that I carry with me throughout my entire career in whatever aspect of medicine I end up pursuing. So often patients that are suffering just need a set of open ears to listen to them.

Lesson #2: Mental Health moves at its own pace 

One of the things that I found incredibly frustrating about Psychiatry is that it's v…e…r…y…… s…l…o…w……….p…a…c…..e….d. Nothing moves fast, patients don’t get better quickly and in most cases, we don’t have a cure for psychiatric illness. Patients ebb and flow, frequently relapse and rarely get back to a level of normal functioning. This is hard to deal with, and hard news to break to patients’ families.

Lesson #3: I am incredibly lucky
I was fortunate enough to be placed in a community mental health team in a very low socioeconomic area. I saw a lot of tough stuff - substance abuse,  violence, unemployment, homelessness and self-neglect to name a few. Interacting with these people and hearing their stories really put into perspective how fortunate I am to have access to all the things that I do. There are a lot of people doing it incredibly tough out in our community and mental illness is only a small portion of the everyday struggles that these people have to endure. I saw some incredible examples of resilience and was amazed at how tough and brave these people are. I learnt not to take a lot of what I have for granted and have tried to pare back my life and be thankful for the small things since.

Lesson #4: Psychiatry is not for me!
I have no doubt that psychiatry is a very important aspect of medicine, but it’s definitely not my type of medicine. I struggled with the structure of psychiatric care, compared to other areas I've worked in. I think that this is a reflection of the complexity of the human brain and the lack of understanding that we have as a medical profession of the complex interplay between our social, physical and emotional selves.

In conclusion
Despite knowing that I don’t want to do psychiatry, I know that the last seven weeks have taught me some important things both about medicine and about life in general. I have the utmost respect for the mental health workers who helped me to understand a very interesting and challenging field of medicine. These workers were constantly kind, patient and most importantly non-judgemental towards their patients. If you like talking to patients and building long-term rapport then psychiatry is a great field of medicine. It really incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach and works with lots of other services to improve the lives of patients.

If you want to know anymore about my time in psychiatry (or any other area of medicine), please send through your questions!

This week I have started my General Medicine Rotation (a mixture of lots of different specialities including Gastroenterology, Neurology, Cardiology, Respiratory, Renal and Oncology to name a few). There is a lot to learn in seven weeks but I look forward to letting you all know how it goes. 

Blog#1 (2014) - My first hospital placement: Women’s Health
(posted 17 March 2014)

Hello and welcome back to another year of study, blogs and all things health.

It has been an incredibly exciting start to the year as I have finally made the transition from life as an ‘on-campus’ uni student to life as a ‘real’ medical student making my debut on the hospital wards. After spending my summer trying to relax and build up my hours of sleep in anticipation of what is going to arguably be the busiest of all my years of study, I donned my professional outfit, stethoscope and very official ID badge and started my journey as a student at a large regional hospital.

My aim this year is to write a blog per rotation (6 x 7 week stint in different parts of the hospital). This should keep you informed as to what I am up to and hopefully give you an insight into some of the many areas of medicine and the many characters that you meet in such a profession. So here goes…

Rotation #1: Obstetrics & Gynaecology (a.k.a. Women’s Health)
Before I could even blink I’d been summoned to the birthing suite for my first 24 hour shift to catch some babies. Being a part of a birth is an amazing opportunity and I had to fight back tears as I helped a couple bring their new baby boy into the world. Other exciting opportunities on my first rotation have included assisting in theatre with caesarean births and other gynaecological procedures, assessing a lot of pregnant bellies, observing ultrasounds and feeding some super cute babies. There have definitely been some challenges navigating the rabbit warren that is the hospital, balancing the difficulties of long hours, little sleep and getting through a lot of self directed study, but all in all, my first real taste of clinical life has been very rewarding. Every day is different, every patient is different and every doctor has a different insight into their profession and the way that they practise. I have been overwhelmed at the willingness of my predecessors to teach me all about the nuances of Obstetrics & Gynaecology as well as many other aspects of life as a doctor (including where to get the best coffee). I have loved my time in the Obstetrics & Gynaecology rotation, I have learnt a lot and will definitely consider it as an option in my future career planning.

What’s next?
I am very excited to see what the rest of the year will throw at me and have really enjoyed the experience of learning on the go, with real patients each day. For my next rotation I tackle Mental Health. I’m sure it will come with its own unique experiences and challenges and I look forward to sharing these with you a few weeks down the track.

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