Medical student in Bingara to experience rural life

December 21, 2016

Fourteen rural councils along with the Country Women’s Association of NSW are sponsoring medical students to undertake placements in country towns as part of the NSW Rural Doctors Network commitment to attracting and retaining medical, nursing and allied health professionals to the bush.

Maria & Olivia
New friends: Nurse, Maria Carroll with medical student Olivia Tonge

Olivia Tonge from The University of Sydney is currently on her two week medical placement in Bingara until December 23. During her time at Bingara Olivia, with her husband and two children, has spent time on a local property, enjoyed horse riding, attended the Christmas Carols at the hospital, and participated in aquarobics at the pool.She has spent time at the Medical Centre, Hospital, Touriandi and with the Community Health team.

Last Saturday, Olivia, her husband Nick, and children Hugo and Annabelle took part in the Gwydir Ark Community Group’s Spotlight Walk to Batterham’s Lookout. “We had a great evening,” Olivia said.

She said she would consider moving to a country area, but due to her husband’s career as an engineer, it would suit her to work as a locum in the country rather than make a permanent move.

The NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) administers the Bush Bursary and Country Women’s Association (CWA) scholarships, which provide students with $3,000 for one year, during which time they spend two weeks in their sponsoring rural area experiencing work and life in a rural community. As well as spending time with local GPs and other medical specialists, the scholarship recipients will also visit allied and community health services including the local pharmacy, aged care facility and Aboriginal Medical Service.

Mr Richard Colbran, Chief Executive Officer of RDN, says that the Bush Bursaries provide networking and educational opportunities which foster the recipients’ interest in rural medicine. The various community aspects that the students are exposed to provides them with a greater understanding of living and working in a rural setting.

“This two week immersion in a rural community at the early stage of their medical career helps affirm that rural medicine is the path these students want to take.”

The 16 participating students who will complete the placement between November and January are from the Universities of Wollongong, New South Wales, Notre Dame, Newcastle, New England and the Australian National University.

Former Bush Bursary recipient, Jack MacKenzie, who completed his placement in Tumbarumba in 2015 has since returned to visit, saying “After completing the Bush Bursary Program in 2015 I elected to return to Tumbarumba, this time to complete a practical placement as part of my course requirements. The experience I gained through the Bush Bursary program and the incredible support from the local community were just some of the reasons I wanted to come back to Tumba.”

Another scholarship recipient Katie Burkitt who was sponsored by Goulburn Mulwaree Council in 2014 said of her experience, “I was always interested in rural practice, however I now realise that there are a lot of opportunities for doctors in rural areas, even specialists. I also like the teamwork aspect of rural practice, it is really a multidisciplinary approach to patient care.”

Councils taking part in the 2016 program include Edward River (Deniliquin), Tenterfield, Yass Valley, Berrigan, Goulburn Mulwaree, Leeton, Lachlan (Condobolin), Narrabri, Snowy Valleys (Tumbarumba), Moree, Brewarrina, Gwydir (Bingara), Wentworth and Snowy Monaro (Bombala). The Country Women’s Association is also sponsoring two students, who will be placed in Berrigan and Deniliquin.