General surgery elective, Alice Springs Hospital, NT

I spent my time in Alice Springs Hospital (ASH) from the 2nd of January until the 1st of February. This was organised via Flinders University through their Norther Territory Medical Placement Officer. Although there were many departments to apply to (both in Alice Springs and Darwin) it was quite competitive my year, so future suggestion would be to apply as early as possible in the year. I received my second preference which was in general surgery.

This has been one of my favourite placements throughout medical school, I think the NT provides excellent experiences and training for medical students and junior doctors.

My supervisor Dr Jacob Jacob was a fantastic surgeon and mentor during my time there. Within the surgical department I would attend ward rounds at 7am and rotate through the 3 different teams, assisting in writing their folders and looking at observation charts and undressing wounds. After the morning round I would usually go to theatres with the registrars and Dr Jacob or another rotating consultant.

I was able to scrub in the majority of the time and assist or observe with incision and drainage, skin excision and skin grafting, cholecystectomy, Appendicectomy, hernia repair, vasectomy, bowel resection, pilonidal sinus repair, endoscopy and chest drain insertion. The surgeons there were able to tutor me in surgical skills and complete incision and drainage, guiding the cameras in laparoscopic surgery, wound packing and cleaning as well as suturing (subcuticular, continuous subcutaneous, hand tying and simple interrupted. If not scrubbed in I would answer pagers for the registrar involved in surgery and relay information and also catheterise the patient when needed.

If surgery finished early I would then assist the JMO’s with ward jobs, usually cannulation and venepuncture. During this time I also became familiar with discharge summaries and ordering imaging and investigations. Teaching for the surgical team would occur three times a week and would involve a presentation from Dr Jacob or one of the registrars rotating in ASH.

Fridays would be the short list where I would be heavily involved in small operations (usually excision and biopsy) where I would be able to also practice my suturing skills. Some nights I would attend with the admitting registrar and involve myself with history and examination of the patient in the emergency department and then take notes. I was able to be involved in home visits for some patients in the community unable to attend ASH. Twice a week I would be involved in clinic where I could participate in history taking and physical examination of the patients. I was also able to attend a call out to Mimli with the Royal Flying Doctors Service for a patient with a suspected lung abscess who was to be admitted to ASH.

I believe this was a great rotation and a place I would like to go back to in the future. The health inequality between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians must be broached and the quality of the doctors working in this environment are of great character. I could not recommend Alice Springs enough for this exposure and the chance to work with people and a hospital integrated with the community and changing lives for the better in a culturally respectful way.