General practice rotations provide medical students an opportunity to understand and experience the rewards, benefits and challenges of clinical practice in a general practice or community setting.
In general practice rotations, students learn how to assess and manage both acute and chronic medical conditions, particularly common illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Patient education and health maintenance is emphasised, and students further develop communication and physical examination skills.
Adelaide med student Daina Rudaks, who experienced a rural general practice rotation in Whyalla, SA, explains why her general practice rotation gave her goosebumps.
Did you ever read a Goosebumps novel? You know the ones, where you have to choose your own adventure? Where you are led through different twists and turns to an alternate ending depending on your choices? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes used to flip back a few pages to rediscover where I had chosen one path so that I could read the other version...looking for something I liked more! Why am I writing about Goosebumps you ask? Well, in my mind, the experience of medical school and a career in medicine is a little like a Goosebumps novel. There is an infinite range of choices and, unlike a conventional novel where the ending is the same for all, everyone arrives at a slightly different endpoint, having taken varied journeys along the way.
Choose your own adventure
Throughout medical school, the adventures you get to choose are presented to you in the form of clinical rotations and electives. Some will immediately take your fancy, some will make you wish you could flip back a few pages and choose the other, and some will surprise you. I am only part way through my Goosebumps novel of medical school, as this has been my first year of clinical rotations, one of which was a general practice placement with the Spencer Gulf Rural Health School.
Expect anything and everything
My rural placement saw me travelling to Whyalla, a town I had never visited, despite having grown up in South Australia. Some 390km away from home, I settled very quickly into the shared student accommodation with others on their own adventures in the form of surgical, nursing and podiatry placements. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the placement, having completed the first half of the year in large metropolitan hospitals. After day one, it was clear – expect anything and everything, but no traffic. Broken bones, first presentations of high blood pressure, six-week baby checks, rashes in children, coughs in adults, sore joints in the elderly, abdominal pain – and this was just the first day! I was no longer just reading about symptoms, I was the first one hearing about them from the patients in front of me and trying to make sense of their stories. I was not looking at photos of signs in my textbooks, but seeing and eliciting these myself to try to arrive at a reasonable diagnosis. My clinical skills were certainly being put to the test, and it was great.
My confidence grew enormously throughout this placement. In my short few weeks, I found that not only was I able to become part of a practice and community but I also gained a true understanding of just how large a range of presentations there is at a rural general practice, and the difficulties of accessing services from such locations. I found very quickly just how true it is that people living in the country are welcoming, open and very willing to help you learn. This is partly because rural communities, more than we in the city realise, are in need of more practitioners.
Twists and turns
Every placement is different. Every preceptor is different. This is what helps to shape our choices as we continue to choose our own adventure while we move through our careers. Who knows what twists and turns await me next year, but this was certainly a placement for which I did not wish to turn back the pages. Maybe you’ll be surprised too.