Christmas Island – a unique placement
Jack Bradbury, during his final year at University of Notre Dame Fremantle, undertook a four-week placement with the Indian Ocean Territories Health Services, experiencing healthcare and life completely different to his hometown, Perth.
When Jack Bradbury was told to pack an Esky with fresh fruits and vegetables, he knew his four-week placement on Christmas Island would be challenging.
“It’s like living on the edge of a knife… you’re isolated from the mainland in terms of supplies,” Jack says. “You don’t know when fresh food supplies will be arriving (on the island)…You need to ration.”
Admittedly, Jack knew little of the island’s history before applying.
“I knew it had a history of processing refugees and asylum seekers, but I would not have backed myself to pin-point it on a map.”
As well as the lack of supplies, another major challenge in providing high-quality healthcare to patients was the isolation from the mainland — which included the lack of reliable internet.
Healthcare professionals on Christmas Island require resilient clinical acumen.
“A situation that might usually warrant a quick referral to hospital, suddenly becomes a decision that could potentially require the help of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.”
During the placements there were GP consultations, the opportunity to work in the two-bed emergency department and be the first contact for walk-in patients, and a considerable amount of public health.
A highlight for Jack was conducting sexual health education classes for year 10 students.
World Kidney day also presented Jack the opportunity to hold a kidney health-screening stand at the pharmacy, taking the opportunity to engage in community health and provide information and education to members of the community.
Outside of the consulting rooms, Jack was able to try his hand at spelunking – the exploration of caves. He explored the partially submerged Daniel Roux Cave and, with the aid of only a headlight, followed the cave out to the ocean.
Overall, the experience shaped Jack’s perspective on a career as a rural GP. The placement emphasised the immense and tangible impact that a rural GP can have on the health of a community.
“I would definitely consider going rural, and I would definitely consider locum work after my time on Christmas Island. I would go back in a heartbeat,” Jack says.
“It is a humbling feeling to see the extent to which even a fourth-year medical student can make a difference to how members of a community approach their health.”
Jack Bradbury graduated in 2017 and is undertaking his internship at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth.