Name: Jessamine Faustino
Entry 2: Day 1 of our Rural Clinical Experience!
I hit my snooze button about 4 times this morning. What a great start to a beautiful day! We started the day with “brekky” at around 8am in the MWC dining hall. The chef was very understanding when we told him we had only been given 2 dining cards for the 5 of us. He reassured us that the rest of us would be issued cards and there must have been some sort of mix up when distributing our keys. “No worries,” he said. So we had some breakfast and coffee. I would say each of us averaged 2 coffees each before leaving the dining hall. Little did we know, those coffees would not be the last of the day.
We had about a half hour before Kristy and Adam would be picking us up for drop off to our rural clinical experiences, so we decided to take a walk to a nearby field where kangaroos and deer like to roam around. Luckily, we saw 2 kangaroos hopping about the field! Supposedly, kangaroo kicks are so powerful they can kick your scalp right off or even crush your chest in! After seeing the wild kangaroo, we walked back to the colleges to collect our belongings.
Adam and Dr. Martin greeted us in the parking lot. Dr. Martin stopped by just to see us off. Thanks to him and the rest of the UNE faculty, we were blessed with this shadowing opportunity! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Once all of our belongings were packed in the car, we drove to the medical school to pick up Kristy and say hello to Dr. McKeown. We took some photos in front of the medical school and met some of the medical students in passing. Adam took us to a lovely café on campus where most of the faculty goes for coffee. While waiting for our coffees, we learned the differences between a “short black” and “tall black” and a “flat white”. Short and tall black is equivalent to a small and large coffee in the states, while a “flat white” is simply a coffee and milk without foam!
Alas we started our trek to Tenterfield, a small town about 200 km north of Armidale. It took us roughly 2 hours to get there. We stopped at a café for lunch before dropping off Nicole, James, and Chris at Tenterfield community hospital. They would be shadowing Dr. Rachel Harvey, who is the main GP (general practitioner) working at Tenterfield Community Hospital (she lives 3 doors down!). After saying our goodbyes, Tatiana and I headed back to Glenn Innes to drop off our luggage before starting our clinical experience. When we arrived at our accommodation, we could not believe where UNE had booked our stay. They had rented out an enormous 5-bedroom cottage (it was honestly more like a HOUSE) for us to stay in this week. Tatiana and I both chose the rooms with the queen-sized beds, since it would only be the two of us for the first 2 nights. In addition to the beautiful décor, every bed had electric blankets!!
Afterwards, we headed to East Avenue Medical Clinic to meet with Dr. Phillip Correy, one of the local GPs. GPs, or general practitioners, are equivalent to our PCPs in the US. Much like our system, GPs are responsible for referring patients out if they are in need of any specialized care. But unlike our system, GPs take on the role of pediatricians, geriatricians, and family doctors, at least in the rural areas. GPs see everyone! While shadowing Dr. Correy, we saw patients of all ages and a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions.
Tatiana and I arrived at the clinic around mid-afternoon and were able to see 8 patients with Dr. Correy. Of the eight patients, 2 were women in early and late stages of their pregnancy, 2 gentlemen had B12 deficiencies, 1 was in remission for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 1 gentlemen had a rotator cuff injury, 1 had a history of colon cancer, and the last gentlemen had a history of hemochromatosis but presented to us with a distended belly and diarrhea.
At the end of the clinic day, Dr. Correy took us back to our cottage and we set out for some groceries and food. Tatiana and I found a place to eat nearby called the Crystal Room, it was one of only places open past 7pm in the town. Glenn Innes has a main road with a variety of small shops and cafes that spans a quarter mile long. The town reaches nightfall by 7 or 8pm so we tried to get back to our cottage promptly after dinner.
A little background on Glenn Innes: The population is about 5000. The town is so tiny that it only has one hospital and one clinic to serve the entire population. I noticed that Dr. Correy knew each and every one of his patients as well as their friends and family. The fact that Dr. Correy knew his patients and their individual histories by heart, allowed his appointments to be more focused and brief.
Healthcare in small, tightly knit communities like this one is quite different from the fast-paced nature of healthcare that we are used to back home, but it is just as effective. These doctors have very little resources at their disposal to care for an entire community. It’s quite remarkable what they can do without all of the advanced medical devices we have back at UCIMC. It really puts medicine back into perspective for us young physicians-in-training. Reminds us that there was a time when we couldn’t just get CXRs, CTs, and blood test results STAT and that doctors used to only rely on their senses as diagnostic tools (perhaps not so much the tastebuds…hehe). It has been an incredibly eye-opening experience thus far, and I look forward to what the next day has in store for us.