The structured training was one thing, but for Amanda Gee it was the ad hoc opportunities that came from being close-by and in a close-knit environment that provided extra learning and value in her RCS year.
“Everyone knows who you are and I think you have a closer relationship with all the other students and staff that you probably don’t have in the city,” she says.
“Proximity was really important, because in the city people live 30 minutes or longer away from where they are posted, whereas in Kalgoorlie where I went for RCS, you are 30 seconds away. So you can nip in and out as you need to and not miss out on anything.
“And the actual medicine is quite a lot more interesting because you don’t have to be in highly specialised units to see interesting things like in the city. Anything can walk in the door, and certainly in the GPs you have to handle a lot more things, so I think there is a lot more diversity.
“Because it is a lot more personal there are a lot more opportunities and you are more involved than you would be in the city.”
Amanda, born in Perth and raised in Bunbury from about the age of nine, chose Kalgoorlie for her RCS year in 2010 because, while training in Perth, she had worked with some physicians from the town and believed they would be “really great to learn from.”
When she arrived, she got more than she bargained for – in the form of her three RCSWA Medical Co-ordinators.
“The ones I thought would be really good teachers were physicians in the hospital and although they did not mentor us on a personal level, I would say they probably gave us more ‘one on one’ stuff than anyone would get in the city.
“The teaching we got from them was really good.
“And because there were not many of us, you can’t escape – if you don’t know something, they are going to know you don’t know, and they can quite easily mention it to your medical co-ordinators. You can’t get away with anything."
Amanda also echoes a common experience among RCS students – the warmth of welcome into the local community.
“I remember when we first got to town how amazing it was to be welcomed like we were; these 21 or 22 year olds, who probably did not have very much life experience, and we had a welcome night, we were given tours of the ‘super pit’ and the massive rec centre &endash; we were just so privileged and lucky.
“I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the year – how lucky we were to be involved in the rest of the community.
“And the other thing they had us doing in Kalgoorlie – I think all the sites did it – we had to get involved in a community project. It was a really fun thing.
Amanda has taken up rural practice, but a long way from the red dust of Kalgoorlie. She is now well settled in Geraldton, on Western Australia’s Midwest coast, where she met her partner (a fellow medico) while doing PGPPP training in 2013.
She is mindful that by the simple fact of location, rural and remote practice holds differing challenges.
“We went up to Shark Bay a couple of weeks ago for a camp with the medical students and I was thinking if you practised in Shark Bay you would have even less. There is not even a pathology lab to process your blood samples.
“It is all a big continuum and we have it pretty good by comparison. In Geraldton we actually do not have it anywhere near as tough as some of the people in more rural places.”
She believes the RCS gave her insight into both the challenge – and the rewards – of rural medicine
“If you give the RCS a chance it can probably be the best year of your medical school academically, as well as opening your eyes to the medical, social and lifestyle opportunities in rural practice.”