Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Gippsland nurtures new doctors

Local heroes: Four of the Gippsland born and bred medical residents working at Latrobe Regional Hospital this year. They are (from left) Shane Robbins, Derk Pol, Ruth Briggs and Andrew Thomas.

Efforts to train and retain doctors in Gippsland are taking significant steps forward because of the opportunity to study medicine with Monash University in Gippsland.

Seven of the eight doctors completing their residency at Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH) in Traralgon this year are Gippsland born and bred.

Six completed their entire medical degree in Gippsland through Monash University’s graduate entry medical degree, doing their first year of study at the School of Rural Health – Churchill and the bulk of their three years practical training  at the School’s clinical academic sites throughout the region.

The doctors are Derk Pol from Moe, Shane Robbins from Maffra, Andrew Thomas and Sharon Johnson from Churchill, Danielle Winkelman from Morwell, Sarah Wilmot from Paynesville and Ruth Briggs from Tyers. They are joined by Tom Walsh from Sale, who did his first two years at
Monash University’s Clayton campus and the remaining years in Gippsland. They were all interns at LRH last year.

The medical residents said the opportunity to live and study in their “home area” and the exposure to a diversity of experiences offered at LRH, had enhanced their training.

According to LRH Chief Medical Officer, Dr Simon Fraser, the number of interns eager to take up a 12 month residency at the hospital has increased.

“The intern training program is increasingly competitive but attracts a high standard of applicants, as a result,” Dr Fraser said. “There are definite advantages in students continuing their training at LRH which has made a significant investment in teaching medical students. I think the fact that many want to stay on reflects that they enjoy the work.

“LRH provides them with a variety of presentations and encourages them to take greater responsibility for clinical decisions while still having full supervision and support of senior doctors.”

The Monash School of Rural Health has a footprint stretching from Orbost to Mildura with four regional clinical academic units and the Department of Rural and Indigenous Health based at Moe.

In Gippsland, there are clinical teaching sites at Traralgon, Churchill, Warragul, Sale, Bairnsdale and Leongatha with the first year of the graduate entry medical degree program taught from the school’s Churchill site.

According to the School of Rural Health’s Associate Professor of Early Rural Medical Education, Shane Bullock, Monash is committed to improving rural health and developing a sustainable rural health workforce.

Associate Professor Bullock is proud of the achievements of all medical students who come through the School of Rural Health and particularly pleased to see the number of Gippsland students undertaking the course.

He said feedback from students was positive. “The quality of medical education in rural areas is on a par with the city. In fact students have said that in rural areas there are more opportunities for hands-on learning compared to sitting on the sidelines observing. They feel there are real benefits in being part of a smaller workforce.”

Students have spent time at hospitals and GP clinics in Traralgon, Warragul, Sale, Bairnsdale and Wonthaggi. As the major referral hospital in Gippsland, LRH also has links with major institutions in Melbourne.

The students’ clinical training can include inpatients and outpatients, acute presentations, chronic presentations, GP work, maternal and child health services, immunisation and fertility clinics.

Associate Professor Bullock said that where in the past, city students were very reluctant to work in a country hospital, there are now seen to be many advantages.

“It is rewarding for Monash School of Rural Health staff to follow the careers of all our students. Those who return to work here often do so because the experience when they studied here influenced their decision.”

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