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From Cairns with love

30 Aug 2021

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.