When I first considered spending my fifth and sixth year at a
rural campus, it seemed too far away, too long of a commitment, and too
important a stage in my degree to take such a big risk.
However, I couldn’t discount the advantages. Having had my fair
share of bedside tutorials with more students than the patient could count, I
knew fewer students on the ward would offer a better learning environment. Add
to that the doctors, theoretically, have more time to teach during their day
and the opportunity for more hands-on experience, and this placement had a
After weighing up what was most important to me, I decided that
if this made me a better doctor, it was worth moving out of my comfort zone. It
would also give me the chance to explore whether being a rural doctor was for
me and if it was a career path I wanted to pursue.
UNSW has four rural campuses for fifth and sixth years, and I
was placed at Coffs Harbour. The appeal of coastal living and cheap flights, make
it a popular choice for rural placements.
Commonly, on a main university campus, you’re one in a sea of
students in every lecture theatre. One of the best aspects of a rural campus is
the small number of students means staff get to know you personally. Clinical
years can be challenging, stressful and at times overwhelming. Knowing that the
person on the other side of the desk knows and cares about you as an individual
is incredibly comforting.
outside the hospital has notable differences from the city too. Every shop, gym
or restaurant is usually less than fifteen minutes away. This means you can fit
in all three in the evening and still get enough sleep for ward rounds the next
day. Some days, the time you save from travelling might be just what you need
to reflect on things, practise mindfulness or meditate. If you’re looking for
adventure on the weekend, neighbouring towns often have plenty of character and
there might be a nearby national park to explore.
yourself with the community is a great way to meet local residents and feel
more at home in your new environment. Look out for local sport competitions or
volunteering opportunities, which might also help you to get to know other students
you’re placed with. In my experience, friends in the country quickly become like
family and to share this significant journey with your peers is a real
are so many reasons to take up a rural placement – many I hadn’t expected. I’m
glad I took up the opportunity, not only because it will make me a better
doctor, but because it has made me a happier medical student.