Elective Posting at Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne By Law Zhen Theng (Doctor of Medicine)
Box Hill Hospital, here I come! That was the first thought that crossed my mind after I finished my Professional Examination 2. Exploring medical and healthcare systems abroad has always been one of my dreams and that was one of the many reasons why I chose to complete my elective programme in Australia. Not forgetting the opportunity to visit one of the seven continents.
Located in Melbourne, Victoria, Box Hill Hospital was established more than half a century ago, in 1956. This teaching hospital is not only one of the seven hospitals that are governed by the Eastern Health network, but it also affiliated with Monash University and Deakin University. They provide services from emergency care, intensive care, maternal services, general medicine, to mental health.
During my first day at Box Hill, I was astonished by the friendly staffs who greeted me along my way to the general medicine ward, the department where I was posted to. I was brought to meet my supervisors, Dr Ghaly and Dr Sunit, a geriatrician consultant and physician-in-training respectively. They were so kind and friendly, and they guided me around the hospital so I could familiarise myself with the medical ward's facilities. The very warm welcome made me feel at home in the completely new environment.
I was very fortunate to have applied to serve my medical elective at Box Hill. It enabled me to experience a different healthcare system, epidemiological medical profile, and culture. This wonderful experience has changed my perspectives towards the healthcare system that I am used to. For example, before going on ward rounds, a group discussion is held with medical personnel from different departments, involving the pharmacist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, staff nurse and even social workers. This opened my mind that medicine practice is truly about teamwork. That approach is time-effective and provides the best care to patients.
My days usually started with a multidisciplinary discussion before I went for morning rounds. My job was to get additional history from the patients, perform physical examinations, check vital signs, documenting progress notes, and give relevant medical advice. This is actually what a houseman does so that was a really good experience. It was demanding but that was definitely the way to learn. Lab results, ECG and imaging interpretations are typically what I have to deal with, and I learned so much from the physicians and registrars.
Once I have completed my rounds, I would always try to grab some food from the cafeteria before the afternoon clinic session. The clinic sessions are subdivided into different specialties. It was another great experience because I was exposed to a variety of cases. I met a couple of patients suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic sclerosis and Polymyalgia rheumatica during the rheumatology clinic - they all presented classic textbook symptoms and findings. The one case that I will never forget was of a friendly 80-year-old lady who came to us with painful swelling and color changes in her fingers along with difficulty in swallowing. The examination revealed calcinosis, sclerodactyly and telangiectasia which perfectly fit the criteria for the diagnosis of crest syndrome. That was the first time I have ever encountered a patient with crest syndrome, and I spent the whole afternoon discussing the illness and treatment with her.
I was also surprised to discover that the medical ward had a well-equipped physiotherapy room. It was designed to help inpatients to regain their gross motor functions. I would always see patients using aids like walkers and walking frames under the guidance of their physiotherapist. This emphasized to me the importance of treating patients holistically.
During my one-month stay in Melbourne, I didn't miss the opportunity to explore the local culture and sceneries. I was amazed by the friendliness of the Australians who greeted me while I was on my way to the bus stop. The natural sceneries were breathtaking, the food was mouthwatering and the people were loving.
In conclusion, I have gained more than what I had expected. I can relate to the saying "it is more blessed to give than to receive" as the medical staffs' willingness to share their experience with me have taught me something more than what I could learn from the textbook. My experience at Box Hill Hospital is one that I would never forget and I am confident that it will remain one of the most important milestones in my medical career.
Law Zhen Theng is an alumnus of SMK Sam Tet, Ipoh.