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Future doctors swing into new healthcare program

September 7, 2022

Bond University medical students Emily Weissenberger (L) and Alain Dutton (R) with Mudgeeraba Special School student Jay McCann-Roca

A new program is taking Bond University medical students out of lecture theatres and onto the frontline of community healthcare.

Senior medical students will now spend six weeks working alongside healthcare professionals within a local correctional facility, drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic, Indigenous health centre, and special school. 

Dr Peter Jones, Professor of Paediatric Medicine at Bond University said the program aimed to expose students to a broader range of healthcare experiences in their formative years.

“We’re really trying to prepare students for where healthcare is delivered, which is out in the community,” says Professor Jones.

“Most of the time, medical education is focussed on the hospital, and that’s important, but it’s only a small part of healthcare that’s delivered in Australia.

“The main motivation for introducing this program was to try and get students to develop a deeper understanding of patients who may have complex social backgrounds or conditions – as these are often the people who don’t have much of a voice.

“If our students can better understand a broader cross section of the community, they will practice as better doctors in the future.”

Mudgeeraba Special School Acting Principal Natasha Markwick says it’s vital for future medical professionals to understand how to communicate with children who have a disability.

“This program helps give our future medical professionals the opportunity to learn how to be an effective communication partner for students who are non-verbal or have limited communication,” she says.

“The Bond University students have moulded beautifully into our teaching team. They have become an integral part of the school community and are involved in all aspects of the learning experience.”

In 2020, student placement programs were thrown into turmoil due to social distancing requirements and staff shortages caused by the pandemic.

To ensure students were still able to graduate with sufficient clinical exposure, Bond University worked with local healthcare providers to extend its traditional placement program into the community more broadly. 

Fourth year medical student Alain Dutton said the new program was unlike any placement he had completed before.

“It’s quite a unique opportunity to be able to learn alongside teachers and teaching aids here at Mudgeeraba Special School,” says Mr Dutton.

“Being in this new environment gives us the chance to develop more of a connection with the kids, and ultimately become better communicators.”

Professor Jones said the program educated students on the broad range of roles health professionals play in the delivery of community care.

“Medicine and healthcare is very much a team sport,” says Professor Jones.

“No one member of the team can do it all on their own and you’ve got to understand people’s roles, because a well-functioning team is going to deliver a far better product of care.”

“By the end of the six weeks, our students are becoming active contributing team members rather than observers. In the process they get the opportunity to understand the critical roles different healthcare professionals play to care for vulnerable members of our community."