Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Summer research scholarship tackles rural ED presentations

A two-week placement in the Bendigo emergency department during Year 3B brought Samara Cua face-to-face with the often overwhelming demand on the service and staff feeling that some of the cases didn’t belong there.

While the problem was apparent, a clinical placement didn’t provide any opportunities to explore the reasons. So when a summer research scholarship was offered in Bendigo looking at how to reduce unnecessary presentations to regional emergency departments, she applied without hesitation.

Meeting the services: Samara Cua (front right) met staff at the Maryborough urgent care centre as part of the research project she worked on with Dr Bernadette Ward (standing beind her).

“In my first clinical year, I was interested in learning how to apply theory in a clinical setting,” said Samara. She’d never had any experience with research but was interested to learn how theory-to-practice works in a research setting. “I had a really positive experience in Bendigo in 2016 and thought I might get the same out of research.”

Under the supervision of Associate Professor Rebecca Kippen and Dr Bernadette Ward, Samara researched and wrote a report on the policy environment in which after hour primary health care services have operated from the mid-1990s to the present. “One of the hypotheses is that that [environment] could affect the number of presentations at ED,” she explained. “I learned that you have to be quite patient and persistent looking for the right articles and reading through big documents to tease out exactly what you’re looking for.”

Samara wasn’t tied to her desk for two weeks though. She and fellow students working on this and other research projects toured four health services to learn how they manage after hours and emergency presentations. Bendigo ED was a short walk away, but Mildura involved a long road trip. They also visited Maryborough and Heathcote which have urgent care centres rather than emergency departments. It broadened her understanding of the different approaches taken to provide such services. “I didn’t know about urgent care centres before this,” she said.

She’s also gained an appreciation of other factors that contribute to the problem. “Sometimes other issues within ED might be the cause of blockages and overcrowding. And I’ve learned that politics can determine which services are supported with funding.”

The summer research scholarship is a good way to gain exposure to research and Samara would definitely recommend it to other students. And she’s definitely planning to work on further research projects once she completes Year 4C.

“It ties in well with evidence-based medicine,” she said, harking back to her interest in how theory applies in clinical settings. “With a summer research scholarship you can start learning more about research and what you can do in it as a student and in the future as a doctor.”

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