Orthopaedic Surgery Placement in Mparntwe/Alice Springs

Student Reflection

Course: 

Bachelor of Clinical Sciences/Doctor of Medicine

Placement Location:

Mparntwe/Alice Springs

Year of Placement:

2023

As I approach the end of my university studies, I reflect upon my medical school experience and am gratified to consider the people I have met, the settings I have lived in and the medicine I have learned. One memorable experience was my 6-week term in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, rotating through Orthopaedic Surgery. Originally from the urban metropolis of Adelaide, my rotations through other parts of the Northern Territory such as Darwin and Katherine exposed me to a different way of life, climate and distribution of disease. Alice Springs was no different, offering me a beautiful Central Australian landscape on which to learn about remote medicine, and Aboriginal health.

During this rotation, I grew professionally in my learning about remote medicine and the social determinants of health. Granted the opportunity to attend a Cultural Workshop at the beginning of my placement, us students were taught about the history of the Arrernte people, prompting us to consider how a history of colonisation and intergenerational trauma in First Nations peoples can affect a patient’s health experience and journey. Furthermore, I witnessed how the demographic from which a patient originates can have profound impacts on their health journey, which included prolonged hospital stays and refractory infection. On the other hand, I witnessed the sound advocacy for Aboriginal patients that is intrinsic in hospital care at Alice Springs Hospital – for instance through their staffing structures – making me proud to work at such a workplace as an intern in the imminent future.

Being a small and sociable team, the Orthopaedics Department showed me great mentorship and ensured I learned medicine in a supportive and stimulating environment. I was able to scrub into surgeries ranging from hand debridement/washouts to total hip replacements, attend clinics and commence some research, in this specialty that is so interesting, varied and academically fascinating. This furthered my development as an aspiring doctor, giving me the opportunity to practise a variety of skills and, importantly, interact with patients from all walks of life, whose individual stories helped enrich my placement experience.

Beyond the hospital walls, I was fortunate to be able to explore the local sites, venturing into Tjoritja/the West MacDonnell Ranges and enjoying the beautiful landscape, rich with the history of the Arrernte people. Alongside students from other universities studying a diverse range of degrees, I enjoyed forging friendships with like-minded students, similarly interested in the unique joys and challenges of health care delivery in Central Australia. 

The ACEN Work Integrated Learning Scholarship assisted me greatly in attending this placement. It granted me assistance with the cost of travel and the expenses associated with living away from home and undertaking full-time placement. I am thankful to the team for their support and mentorship, whose assistance elevated my experience of studying medicine in Central Australia. I look forward to further enhancing my understanding of remote medicine and Aboriginal health, harnessed by this placement, as I venture into the beginnings of my career as a health practitioner.