Hi, Rob again. As I come to the end of my degree, I thought I would write a blog about what is undoubtedly the highlight of medical school for many — the elective period. This is an opportunity for clinical phase medical students to go anywhere in the world for a set period of time to undertake a medical attachment of their choosing. When in medical school this takes place varies, but here at Nottingham it is done after you have sat your final exams in the final year. People this year have gone all over – from doing pre-hospital medicine in London, to working in rural India and Africa to the Caribbean – there really are no limits.
I decided to use some savings I’ve had stowed away from my gap year job and head to Tasmania in Australia. I’ve always wanted to go, since my childhood obsession with Taz the Tasmanian Devil (looks nothing like a real devil by the way!). It’s fairly normal to arrange your elective at least a year in advance – especially if you want to do some of the very competitive schemes – and when I arranged mine I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I chose GP. I’ve always been interested in how medicine is different where rurality is a problem and because of this I picked the rural North West of the island.
Tasmania feels like the UK – the people are friendly, the weather is similar (although slightly nicer), and the countryside is very much the
same. The only thing that makes you know you’re the other side of the world are the wallabies and kangaroos that are literally everywhere.
The patients are certainly very similar, presenting with a typical range of problems you would expect to see in a UK GP surgery – infections, back pain and skin problems.
However the one thing that was very different was the way healthcare is funded. Seeing patients having to pay a contribution for their appointments and not being able to afford drugs that I knew were the best treatment because the government only subsidises some drugs was very difficult. Seeing patients who had been waiting over a year to see an orthopaedic surgeon for a hip replacement was also tough. It made me feel infinitely more grateful for the NHS, and although it may be constantly under fire, there is no doubt that it provides a service unlike any other in the world.
The other great thing about being in Tasmania is the stunning scenery – you can drive for 2 hours and go from stunning mountains to beautiful rocky coasts and then another hour and be on a massive expanse of pure white sand. The diversity is incredible!
My elective will certainly be my highlight of medical school, and it provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity properly get to know an area and its people and I will definitely be going back!