The Call of the Bush – Lachlan Council leads the way with the Bush Bursary Scheme.
For second year medical student Catherine Kennedy, two weeks in Condobolin on a Bush Bursary scholarship strengthened her resolve to pursue a medical career in regional Australia. Originally from Tasmania, Catherine is currently studying medicine at the University of Newcastle.
“Part of the reason I applied for a Bush Bursary was to gain experience in indigenous health, so I’ve spent a few days with the Condobolin Aboriginal Health Service, which has been really informative. I’ve loved it,” says Catherine.
The Bush Bursary/CWA Scholarship Scheme, administered by the NSW Rural Doctors Network, provides selected medical students in NSW and the ACT with $3000 each to assist with costs associated with their studies. In return, the students spend two weeks on a rural placement in country NSW during their university holidays. The scheme is one of a range of initiatives designed to encourage students to consider rural medicine as a career choice.
Lachlan Shire Council, which includes Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo, was one of a few councils who worked with the Rural Doctors Network to establish the Bush Bursary Scheme in 1996. Since then, 289 medical students have completed Bush Bursaries across NSW and experienced the many positive aspects of medical practise and lifestyle that rural communities have to offer.
In 2012, the NSW Rural Doctors Network published a study that showed the Bush Bursary program was having significant success in influencing students to consider medical careers in regional areas. The study found 41% of scholarship recipients spent their first and second postgraduate years in a rural hospital. 26% of former scholarship recipients were working in rural areas. The remaining three quarters of recipients (74%) were working in metropolitan areas and 46% maintained links to rural medicine. These links included rural locums, specialist outreach and part time medical educator roles. Seven practitioners indicated their intention to relocate permanently to a rural area in the near future.
Local councils, such as Lachlan Shire Council, play a pivotal role in the program.
“The Bush Bursary Scheme is an excellent program and Council is delighted to support it,” says Lachlan Shire General Manager, Liz Collyer. “In Catherine’s case, our priority areas of indigenous health and general practice closely matched her expressed interests. Through her placement, Council was able to showcase the lifestyle advantages of rural living and assist Catherine in meeting her training needs.”
Catherine says she gained an “incredible amount” from her Bush Bursary experience in Lachlan Shire.
“I’d go home exhausted because I’d just been thinking and learning so much all day,” she recalls. “I’d typically start at around 8am at the hospital with ward rounds, which was actually a really good way to start the day and I’d love seeing the continuation of care with the patients in there. I remember chatting to one bloke about the salmon farms in Tassie for quite a while.”
Catherine’s placement was largely observational, but she gained valuable practical experience in medical examinations and history taking.
“I also got to assist in minor skin excisions and suturing up wounds, which was pretty interesting,” she says.
“I visited several healthcare organisations in Condo, including the nursing home, pharmacy and physiotherapy. The majority of my time though was spent with the GPs, either at the Medical Centre in town or the Aboriginal Medical Centre. I think I finished at around 5pm most days, but it would vary depending on how over time the doctors were running. I stayed in the nursing quarters at the hospital, which was great. It meant if something came into emergency in the middle of the night nurses would give me a call and I’d wander over, and there was a nurse staying there as well so there was someone to chat to.”