Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Jessica goes back to her roots for GP placement

Jessica Paynter returned to Swan Hill to learn from the GP who delivered her 21 years ago.
Not many medical students can choose to go and study with the obstetrician who was present at their birth, but Jessica Paynter figures she can learn a lot from the Swan Hill GP who delivered her, Dr Ernan Hession.

Jessica is one of eight Monash medical students doing an 18-week placement under the guidance of Dr Hession at the Swan Hill Primary Health Medical Centre.

Growing up in Nyah and Swan Hill, Jessica understands both the down- and upsides of living in a close-knit community. “That’s what rural medicine is all about: seeing your patients in the supermarket,” she said. “I’m sure it’s a challenge that doctors may feel that they never leave their profession.

“It’s a nice community though; I know a lot of people and I’ll probably see a lot more people than I expect while I’m here.”

The 21-year-old is the first in her family to study medicine; it was childhood experiences of the local medical workforce that got her thinking about medicine as a career. There weren’t many female GPs in Swan Hill when she was growing up, she remembers. “There’s a lot more now, but I has the impression when I was young that there weren’t many female doctors at all.”

Seeing an opening, enjoying physical activity and with an interest in science, Jessica thought medicine was a good fit, and she likes the Monash model. “I picked the ERC [Extended Rural Cohort stream] because I wanted to study rurally. I knew I had the option to come home and do a placement.”

She’s well aware of the importance of maintaining connections in sustaining a community. “If you don’t keep connections with a community, it just dies,” she said. Many of her friends also studied health sciences and some are returning to Swan Hill now. “One of my friends got a graduate nursing position in Swan Hill this year and another has got a new job as a speech pathologist.”

Will she be back too? She’s not sure yet where her career interests lie, although this placement is a “little trial” return to Swan Hill. “I’ll probably do a few junior years in a bigger centre and come back when I’ve specialised.

"I came in [to the medicine course] thinking I wanted to do general practice. I like the look of the GP lifestyle, especially rurally. It’s a lot more hands-on and keeping your skills up-to-date is important. A lot of GPs in Swan Hill do a lot of work in ED and have paediatric and other specialist diplomas.”

This semester studying with Dr Hession will certainly give her hands-on experience of working as a rural GP before she returns to Bendigo for the rest of the year.

While it’s a big year for a medical student returning home for a placement, it won’t be all hard work. The netball club she used to play for is trying to recruit her to come and play again while she’s in Swan Hill. It might be hard to resist those old connections.

(See story about the Swan Hill clinic where Jessica is studying...)

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