Lilian Zou on life in Kempsey

Fifth year medical student, Lilian Zou, talks about her placement in Kempsey

image - Lilian Zou on life in KempseyI remember telling my mother I was doing my rural placement in “Kempsey”, to which she replied “Campsie? I didn’t know that was rural! How convenient!” Whilst the two places sound familiar, they are very, very different.

I went to Kempsey with two other UNSW medical students, and shared a 3-bedroom house with them that was approximately a 5-minute walk from the hospital (Kempsey District Hospital). It was actually a really nice house! There is a massive TV and a well-stocked kitchen, including an oven for people who like to bake (from personal experience, this will make you very popular at hospital). We even semi-adopted our neighbour’s overfriendly dog who would often chill out in our backyard and beg for food. 

A typical day:

We’d wake up around 7am for ward rounds, which started at 7:30am. Even though the hospital was only a 5 minute walk away, we actually ended up driving to hospital more times than we are proud to admit. It’s cold in the mornings and we aren’t really morning people…

Depending on the number of inpatients, ward rounds with the consultant and resident went til 10am. Afterwards, our consultant would give us a one-hour tutorial on anything we wanted, often interesting cases that we’d seen during the round that we were keen to know more about.

We’d then go back to the wards to help out with a few procedures, mostly doing cannulas, ABGs and taking bloods.

After lunch, the consultants would have afternoon clinics that we were welcome to attend if we were interested. There was a lot of teaching at these clinics, so we would often join in. Some days we would get campus teaching videoconferenced from the Kensington campus.

The weekends:

We lived for the weekends, where we would have amazing daytrips up and down the coast, visiting quaint country cafes and hitting the beach for a quick dip and sunbathe. Kempsey is perfected situated on the mid North Coast of NSW – with Port Macquarie a mere 45 minute drive south, and Coffs Harbour an hour to the north. Travel east towards the coast and you’ll hit the beautiful South West Rocks and Crescent Head, which have beaches so white and untouched they make going back to Bondi a struggle. Hathead Reserve is also a great place for sandboarding, and your rural mentor (Vincent, a GP who has lived in Kempsey for 20 years!) will kindly lend you some sandboards to give it a go! 

Whilst not as pretty as the towns around it, Kempsey itself is pleasant. There is all you’ll need in town including a Big W, Coles, Woolworths, Target country, Crazy Clarks and even a Reject Shop. Dining options were somewhat limited, with the token westernised Chinese restaurants, pubs and takeaway franchises that you’ll find in most country towns. There’s also a great lookout point in East Kempsey overlooking the MacCleay River and the main bridge into town. 

Country VS City

Born and raised in Sydney, I would consider myself a bit of a city girl. However, the clinical experience in the country is unparalleled in diversity. Doing “general medicine” in Kempsey was refreshing, as the patients had a wide variety of conditions ranging from cardiac, respiratory, gastro, neurological that needed to be managed…and everything wasn’t as specialised and divided as it is in the city. In a city hospital, patients are admitted under a certain specialty, with relevant consults from other specialties requested as required. Therefore, I found the consultants in Kempsey had an extremely impressive breadth of knowledge, due to the variety of patients seen. This really helped in terms of study, as I’d be exposed to so many different conditions that I’d have to go back and read up on! Luckily for all the nerds out there (which we all are), there’s a student common room in the hospital that has computers and loads of textbooks (some are not that current, but interesting maybe from a historical point-of-view).

Overall, I loved my placement in Kempsey. I would highly recommend you drive, so you can take advantage of the beautiful towns around the area on the weekends.

image - Lilian Zou on life in Kempsey image - Lilian Zou on life in Kempsey