Everyone says that being a rural doctor means that you're isolated and alone. The RDAQ conference shows that although this may be true geographically, in spirit you are with a large family of doctors, nurses and other professionals who live and work outside tertiary hospitals. It was not the hands on teaching that was the highlight of the trip, it was how every year this family get together to catch up with each other, learn and have a moment to relax with their colleagues. Even as students we were embraced into this family with open arms beginning on the Thursday.
Thursday at the beautiful Sunshine Coast was a day tailored for students. Not many large conferences seem to recognise and appreciate student delegates but this was a day for us with lectures aimed at students covering key rural health topics such as Neonatal palliative care, Mental health in rural areas and presentations from the individual rural clubs throughout Queensland (Bushfire - Bond, Trohpiq - UQ, Rhino - JCU and H4H - us here at Griffith). Importantly for later years, the Rural Generalist Pathway was outlined in a manner you most likely won't see at GCUH - the Rural Generalist Pathway as told by Dr Seuss. The afternoon allowed students to get hands on for a few hours. Some clinical skills involved more first and second year student level skills such as management of nose bleeds, FAST ultrasound scans and obtaining intra-osseous access; right though to practicing intern level such as chest drains and airway techniques. The evening allowed us a chance to relax and meet our sponsors. As we know conferences aren't cheap on the student budget. RDAQ facilitates Rural Doctors to sponsor students thereby subsidising their conference costs considerably. The conference welcome reception allows students to meet their sponsor and a chance to get to know them and their practice.
Friday marked the beginning of the conference proper, starting with the networking breakfast allowing delegates to check out the trade displays and meet students and doctors from around Queensland. From there the day took us on a whirlwind adventure of rural practice with lectures from inspirational rural doctors such as Dr Shorthouse, a Rural Generalist working in East Arnhem land in the Northern Territory, talking about their experiences and the trials and rewards of a career in rural medicine. On the Friday and Saturday of the conference 2 lecture sessions (morning and afternoon) were available to attend, each with 4 streams. The only trouble is picking what to go to. With topics like Trauma Resuscitation, Rural training pathways, Emergency Paediatric sedation, Agricultural medicine and rural medicine case scenarios how can you make the selection? After the lecture sessions the medicopolitical forum was an eye opening experience. Here doctors and politicians discuss key issues facing rural medicine. The passion these doctors have for their community is truly overwhelming. They take the fight to the politicians, to represent those who may be forgotten by the Government in Brisbane and Canberra. It is an inspiration to see. But once again it's not just about learning. The Family event at Aussie World featured a great meal, a chance to meet other students and everyone to let their hair down.
Saturday was the final day of the conference and once again showcased rural medicine with lectures and case studies. One lecture slot allows students to present interesting rural case studies they have been involved with. A memorable case study was that of a man poisoned with a pesticide. Not something you'd see in metropolitan areas. Although it was the last day of the conference, it was far from over. The Gala ball was truly remarkable. The way the entire conference area was transformed into a fine dining experience will not be forgotten soon (nor will the band - The Rednecks with their own rural/medical twist on some classic songs).
The thing I loved about this conference was the people. It was not uncommon to find yourself having a candid chat with a senior consultant from a rural hospital or to bump into students from other universities and share your experiences. RDAQ is a conference where students are made to feel welcome and is a chance to meet these legends of the Bush.
Rural Portfolio Coordinator