JFPP in Mullumbimby

Interested in working in rural medicine? Ever heard of John Flynn?

The John Flynn Placement Program (JFPP) is run by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). It aims to introduce students to rural medical settings through four two-week placements over the span of their medical degree. Shiva Sridhar, a current second year student, tells us about her first placement in Mullumbimby at the start of 2017!


JFPP: My Experience

Where do I even begin? First, I reckon we need some background on who I am. My name is Shiva and I’m a second year medical student. (Don’t worry I’m not going to start talking about confidentiality and ask to take a history). I grew up in Melbourne and went to high school in the city. I had never been in a rural or remote town for more than 12 hours, but on the morning of the 20th of January I boarded a flight to Brisbane, my ultimate destination being Mullumbimby, NSW.

Settling in

“It was a jump straight into the heart of community and I loved it.”

Mullumbimby is a small town close to Byron Bay (so to be fair I really was on holiday), and the first thing that hit me was the humidity. My mentor, Dr Annette Beisenherz, works at the Mullumbimby Medical Centre as a GP and runs the Skin Care facility attached to the clinic. An extremely friendly and warm person, I was fortunate enough to be able to have her as my host and community contact.

Having arrived on a Friday evening, Annette and her partner Mahikitai were absolutely lovely. They got me settled into their home, took me to beaches in Brunswick and Byron and treated me to the Mullumbimby markets. It was a jump straight into the heart of community and I loved it. Every time they visited a family friend, I was invited to go along and it was here that I spoke to some of the most well-travelled people I have ever met and heard about so many interesting experiences. In fact, I was even taken along to a hippie-themed 60th birthday party and treated to an Indian restaurant an hour away just so I could feel more at home!

In the clinic

Monday morning, my time at the medical centre began. With barely any clinical experience, I would say the biggest challenge for me was finding my footing in that first week. I really had no idea how to interact with patients and honestly felt a little intrusive sitting in on consultations. One thing to note, the health professionals I sat in with sometimes forgot to introduce me and I think it falls on us to be proactive and tell the patients who we are and ask them if it’s ok that we sit in (although this is the GP’s responsibility and something that should be discussed if it happens repeatedly).

Over the course of the two weeks I had the opportunity to observe the walk-in clinic, the nurses, and a musculoskeletal physician as well as observe excisions, biopsies and skin checks at the Skin Clinic. When it came to procedures, I didn’t even know how to put on surgical gloves, so while I observed for the most part, by the end of the week I was setting up sterile environments, assisting excisions and even had the opportunity to do my own Punch Biopsy (hands down the most exciting of the entire placement)! I’m really looking forward to going back at the end of second year and hopefully being able to do a few more procedures and get some real hands on experience.

Lessons learnt

While the biopsy was definitely my most memorable event, I believe that the best part of the experience was definitely talking to patients and really learning how to build rapport. I heard so many interesting stories and even as medical student, really felt a part of the patients’ lives. However, I do have to say that as someone who hates creepy crawlies, it’s a little hard getting used to lizards building homes in my hair!

If I had to describe my JFPP experience in three words, I would say that it was different and exciting but most of all humbling. As medical students we tend to get caught up in our own little world of deadlines, exams and an enormous workload. However, having gone into this placement with no such demands but purely to immerse myself in a learning experience, the vast amount of knowledge amassed by the physicians I had the privilege of accompanying has really shown how much more there is for me to discover.


Learn more about the John Flynn Placement Program and see if you’re eligible to apply here. Register your details to apply before March 29th, 2017.

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