Finding staff to fill medical positions in rural areas is becoming increasingly difficult – not just here but overseas. Health careers advisor Liz Carpenter is on to it, however.
Liz, an immunologist by training, works part-time for the New Zealand Institute of Rural Health. Part of her role is to provide information and support for rural students interested in a career in health sciences. Recently she held a one-day event at the Waikato Clinical school for Year 13 students from the Waikato’s rural areas.
It was, she says, a highly successful event. “The students came from Huntly, Tokoroa, Matamata, Hauraki Plains, Waihi – and we included one or two urban schools because some of the rural schools had difficulty getting students to us.”
The 19 students spent the day trying their hands at a range of procedures, based in the school’s Clinical Skills Centre on the Waikato Hospital campus.
“Practising on adult-sized mannequins, they used a laryngoscope to guide a tube down the trachea – and not the oesophagus. It’s harder than it looks. They were thrilled when they did it correctly and the lungs on the mannequin puffed up.”
The students took blood and set up an intravenous line using very life-like plastic arms with bulging veins, and sutured a piece of pork belly, which is a good stand-in for human tissue, she says.
They also got the chance to discuss their goals with medical staff, including house surgeons and recent graduates.
“The students said later that this was valuable for them, as they were able to ask specific questions about the university courses ahead of them.”
She was impressed at the calibre of student taking part, and said they made the most of the opportunity.
“They were so enthusiastic and were able to complete all the tasks in the Skills Centre to a high level of competency, much to their individual surprise. I felt they very much enjoyed the chance to meet others from around the Waikato who are considering a career in medicine.
Especially as those from rural areas are often the only student in their school with such plans.”
There is data to suggest someone brought up in a rural community is more likely to head back to the country after they’ve been trained – “Which is what we need, ” she says.