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From Cairns with love
Developing skills in the general medical ward and during home visits and experiencing Cairns by pushbike made this clinical placement away from her kids worthwhile for Nicola Dolan – and allowed her to visualise whether regional health had a place in her future.
I was placed at Cairns Regional Hospital for my Regional Rural Remote third year placement in 2020, financially assisted by a CRANAplus sponsored Undergraduate Remote Placement Scholarship. As a student from the Gold Coast, I considered myself pretty lucky to be going to Cairns, especially after COVID had cancelled my previous placement in Darwin. Travelling alone, spending six weeks away from my family and undertaking my first hospital placement was daunting at first. The team at Cairns were very supportive, and I had the opportunity to meet many other OT students from different universities around the state.
I was based in the general medical ward and had the opportunity to practise a range of clinical skills from personal care assessments to neurological assessments and home visits. The multidisciplinary team was very supportive and welcoming and by the end of my placement, I truly felt part of the team and could see myself working in that environment.
As part of my undergraduate degree, I am completing an Indigenous Health Major through Gnibi College at SCU. This is a relatively new opportunity for occupational therapy students and one I encourage all health students to undertake if they have the opportunity. The Gimuy-Walubarra Yidi People are the traditional custodians of the Cairns region. I felt very privileged to put into practice some of the important skills I have learnt through my studies with Gnibi College at SCU. The learning from Gnibi assisted in my ability to have culturally appropriate interactions with staff, patients and the wider community, which was immensely helpful to building rapport.
Although there was shared student accommodation available in Cairns, I chose to stay in private accommodation I found through Airbnb, which was walking-distance to the hospital. The best thing I did while in Cairns was buying a second- hand pushbike off Gumtree! Not having a car, this allowed so much more freedom. I loved riding the esplanade in the afternoon, exploring the residential streets and getting beautiful fresh produce from Rusty’s Market on the weekends. I often caught up with other students on weekends for swims in the lagoon, dinner and sunset drinks by the marina.
As a mother, being away from my kids for six weeks was challenging at times. However, in hindsight, completing a placement away from family was helpful, as I could put 100 percent focus on my placement and myself.
I found self care was extremely important while away from home, and doing familiar activities like riding my bike, hiking and being in nature was extremely helpful in keeping a clear and focused mind. I didn’t consider, however, that swims in the ocean are not the everyday occurrence in Cairns as they are on the Gold Coast! I made it a priority midway through my placement to take a boat trip out to the islands for a swim – much-needed beach and saltwater therapy!
I would recommend Cairns and the hospital for anyone considering a regional placement. The staff and locals are extremely welcoming and there is so much to do and explore. I grew so much in my personal and professional life while being away from home and family.
Even if you’re a mature student and have family commitments, I encourage you to use your supports at home and take the opportunity – regional placements are not out of the question!
Find out more about the undergraduate remote placement scholarships offered by CRANAplus.