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JCU Course Overview

Hi all.

So I've been seeing mixed reviews about JCU's Medical Program but would like to get some proper insight from you guys (i.e. JCU students themselves) and also ask a few questions regarding how the course runs there. Would appreciate some insight.

1) Is it true most of the learning in JCU is done through practicals, e.g. first year students go to hospitals and learn from a more hands-on approach rather than the conventional "learn stuff from lectures for the first 4 years and then go to hospitals in your final years"? If so, what are your thoughts about this? Do you feel like you had to learn more content yourself at your own time or were you guided through the whole way?

2) Which hospitals do you guys usually end up in during the clinical program? Are they all rural-based and did you feel like those hospitals were much more under-equipped and did that impact your experience in any way?

3) How different is the overall lifestyle at Townsville like compared to your original cities (i.e. if you didn't live in Townsville in the first place); how's the campus facilities, dorms, climate, etc?

4) Which hospitals do you guys get relocated to during your years in Medical school and initial years after medical school? Are they all rural-based or can they be more metro-oriented? Do you get to choose?

That's all I've got for now. Thank you guys in advance.
 

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alexlipton

JCU MBBS II
Valued Member
Hi all.

So I've been seeing mixed reviews about JCU's Medical Program but would like to get some proper insight from you guys (i.e. JCU students themselves) and also ask a few questions regarding how the course runs there. Would appreciate some insight.

1) Is it true most of the learning in JCU is done through practicals, e.g. first year students go to hospitals and learn from a more hands-on approach rather than the conventional "learn stuff from lectures for the first 4 years and then go to hospitals in your final years"? If so, what are your thoughts about this? Do you feel like you had to learn more content yourself at your own time or were you guided through the whole way?

2) Which hospitals do you guys usually end up in during the clinical program? Are they all rural-based and did you feel like those hospitals were much more under-equipped and did that impact your experience in any way?

3) How different is the overall lifestyle at Townsville like compared to your original cities (i.e. if you didn't live in Townsville in the first place); how's the campus facilities, dorms, climate, etc?

4) Which hospitals do you guys get relocated to during your years in Medical school and initial years after medical school? Are they all rural-based or can they be more metro-oriented? Do you get to choose?

That's all I've got for now. Thank you guys in advance.
Hi there,

I am 2nd year medical student at JCU so my opinions are restricted primarily to the preclinical years but I think I can provide some answers to your questions. Benjamin, bondaap, DNA and Toasted are other past and current JCU students who I know sometimes traverse MSO who will likely be able to give a different perspective.

Regarding your first question I would say we don't actually get a whole lot of "on the job" clinical learning in first year. We get a three day GP placement mid year followed by a two week elective placement at the end of the year wherever we can get it approved. These placements are largely (if not entirely) observational and very limited learning is conducted on them, as you can imagine the scope of a 1st year medical student is extremely small. As you can organise them yourself in year 1, the teaching component will largely depend on who your supervisor is. For the most part of the preclinical years, you're taught everything (including clinical skills) at university and not on placement. For example, in year 2 we learn to do cardio, respiratory and GI exams at university with the intention to hopefully apply that in our mid or end of year one month rural placement (as for how we'll do that during the current Covid-19 pandemic is a good question however). Generally the lecturers guide the students as to the depth of knowledge required for the preclinical years and topics become more systems based as the years progressed, so I wouldn't say there is much "self-learning" or "learning on the job" for the preclinical years. However, in saying that - speaking to a lot of older year students, the experience of going on rural placement is often one that can be quite daunting for some. Particularly in the 2nd year 1 month rural placement you end up having a lot more freedom and it's not unheard of for 2nd years to be independently running consultations and helping out with procedures you may not have directly studied yet which can be a fantastic experience for some to learn by being thrown in the deep end, but also quite traumatic for others. I guess the opinions on this will vary depending on the person. As for the clinical years yes it is very self-taught once you're spending most of the time in the hospitals, but I believe this is an experience shared by most clinical Medical students. You're expected to learn independently.

In relation to your second question, hospitals will obviously vary depending on which rotation you're on. The key base hospitals for clinical students are either Mackay, Townsville or Cairns and certainly will all provide sufficient variety in most medical specialties, although may lack some subspecialty exposure compared to some of the bigger non-rural hospitals as has been discussed by previous users on here. Townsville in particular, being the only tertiary referral hospital in north queensland will likely not be any different from say Gold Coast University hospital for example in terms of resources and experience. I suggest reading more on this on this forum here.

In response to your third question, Townsville is certainly a change for city kids, but I wouldn't say it's neccessary a "bad" change. I came from metro NSW, so the difference in vibe was noticeable. At times, the lack of decent public transport makes Townsville difficult to navigate without a car, and the lacklustre arts and eating-out scene does mean you lack that kind of fast-paced vibrancy of a metro city but in a weird way the relaxed setting is actually kind of nice. You get to know your peers better as everyone has come from somewhere else around Australia and certainly if you stay on College you're kind of stuck with people who are all in the same boat as you, not stuck in high-school friendgroup cliques. Dorms are generally fine, although the heat is the biggest shock to the system. Townsville during summer is horrendous, and you need to prepare to sweat and rely on air conditioning. Welcome to the tropics. You get used to it pretty quick.

And lastly to answer your 4th question - for 4th year you get to preference either Cairns or Townsville to do your clinical training. Then for 5th year the Townsville cohort is split, with a smaller number sent to Mackay and the rest remaining in Townsville (I can provide some more specific numbers for you if you want). Generally if you preferenced Cairns in 4th year you will remain there for the rest of the course. These are your "base hospitals" where you'll do most of your time, but you'll still have rural terms where you have to head out to more rural locations like Mareeba or Weipa, just as you will have elective terms you can do anyway (including in non-rural locations should you wish to do that). Notably, there is a 10 week elective placement a lot of sixth year students do overseas. As discussed, if you're at Townsville, Cairns or even Mackay you're not really at any disadvantage to other medical students as the experience will likely be no different to other Medical students at bigger hospitals as you're just learning the bread-and-butter to become a basic intern anyway. This point was further touched on this in the forum I linked above. While you'll be a getting a significant rural focus, you have plenty of opportunities to work in metro locations during these times if you want (although getting them can be a very competitive process). As for after medical school there is no difference for JCU students compared to every other school. The internship system is a ballot process that allows each graduating medical student from all the medical schools in QLD to put in their preferences for hospitals they'd like to work in and your allocation is random. If you graduated from JCU but wanted to try and do your intership at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, you're chances of getting it are the same as a UQ graduate for example. That's a basic summary - read more on internship allocations on the appropriate threads here on MSO. Then following internship everyone applies like a normal job application to individual hospitals.

Hope that helps somewhat! :)
 
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Thanks a lot for your response, it provided a greater insight for me. I had a few more questions and I hope you don't mind answering them if you can;

1) In terms of the 3 day GP placement and the two week elective placements in Year 1 and the one month rural placement at the end of Year 2, if these happen to be outside of Townsville, do you guys have to pay for your own accomodation, food, utility bills, etc. or does the Uni provide some assistance? This question applies to any external placements throughout the whole program.

2) You mentioned 'pre-clinical' and 'clinical' years. So I'm guessing from Years 1-3 (pre-clinical?) you guys learn all the "textbook" knowledge at Uni alongside with some short elective placements in between, whilst in Years 4-6 you guys operate solely at a hospital of your choice and self-learn from there? Whilst I know you're a second year, do you have any idea of what the self-learning involves for Med students in the final two years at hospitals (since you mentioned this is a common theme for any Medical student in Australia)?

3) I know this is quite a broad question, but what exactly is the "rural-focus"? Does it just involve practicing normal medicine in more remote areas or are there other issues you deal with (i.e. certain diseases that may not be found in metro areas)?

4) How does the 2nd year "consultation" program work? Being thrown in the deep end, how do patients react if a Med-student messes up or doesn't have enough knowledge for the particular situation?

5) How long are the rural terms during your clinical years?

6) Have there been cases where people had to do placements in Cairns or Mackay even if they had preferences in Townsville but couldn't be there due to higher demand from other students?

Sorry if there's too many questions, I'm just genuinely interested in this.
 
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alexlipton

JCU MBBS II
Valued Member
Thanks a lot for your response, it provided a greater insight for me. I had a few more questions and I hope you don't mind answering them if you can;
Sorry - I did see this message last night but I was too tired at the time to answer it!

1) In terms of the 3 day GP placement and the two week elective placements in Year 1 and the one month rural placement at the end of Year 2, if these happen to be outside of Townsville, do you guys have to pay for your own accomodation, food, utility bills, etc. or does the Uni provide some assistance? This question applies to any external placements throughout the whole program.
For the elective placements in first year the College is unable to provide any monetary assistance, which is why a lot of students go back to their hometowns to do their placement. As for 2nd year and College-organised placements thereafter, the College does provide a $100 week accomodation bursary as well as cost all petrol/flight costs should students need to travel to get to their destination. There are some specific scholarships for international rural placements as you can imagine as well. In general the college does a good job of supporting most students with accommodation on placement. Most college-arranged accommodation has internet available via eduroam.

2) You mentioned 'pre-clinical' and 'clinical' years. So I'm guessing from Years 1-3 (pre-clinical?) you guys learn all the "textbook" knowledge at Uni alongside with some short elective placements in between, whilst in Years 4-6 you guys operate solely at a hospital of your choice and self-learn from there? Whilst I know you're a second year, do you have any idea of what the self-learning involves for Med students in the final two years at hospitals (since you mentioned this is a common theme for any Medical student in Australia)?
All I'm relying on here is anecdotes from people I've spoken to in older years, but the general consensus is as the years progress there is less formal "teaching" but rather topic guidelines for assessment, and you're expected to learn the material through interacting with consultants and supervisors at the hospital and own research by yourself. There are of course teaching facilities at the hospitals, but a lot of it is more integrated with clinical scenarios as you can imagine. So in terms of what it will likely involve, it means learning more exclusively from textbooks and online resources rather than listening to lecturers. Perhaps Benjamin can provide more specific insight on this one?

3) I know this is quite a broad question, but what exactly is the "rural-focus"? Does it just involve practicing normal medicine in more remote areas or are there other issues you deal with (i.e. certain diseases that may not be found in metro areas)?
The rural focus is felt throughout the whole course which should come as no surprise. From year 1 you learn about a lot of the health disparities in rural and remote areas, and throughout the course there are some dedicated subjects that focus on the health of rural patients, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities. A lot of specific health issues pertinent to agricultural and mining communities for example, and learning about the cultural differences in these regions are some things you may not learn at other Medical schools. You rightly asserted that we do learn a lot about Medicine relevant to these communities, including tropical infections and diseases such as Dengue Fever which aren't really found in metro areas. The primary goal of JCU's med program is to produce a greater number of graduates working in rural and remote areas as I'm sure you've heard, and so they do really try to give students a number of opportunities to work in rural areas that provide great satisfaction for students, but you are by no means restricted to do only rural placements throughout the course, and you get a lot of flexibility as to where you can go.

4) How does the 2nd year "consultation" program work? Being thrown in the deep end, how do patients react if a Med-student messes up or doesn't have enough knowledge for the particular situation?
It's not really a "program" but just experiences felt by students when they're given a lot of independence. What I meant by consultations was some students would basically independently take basic histories of patients in general practices where the risk is lower than say at hospital, then pass on what they've learnt to their supervisor who may ask a few follow up questions if needed. As for how patients react, from what I've heard most understand Medical students are just learning, and so as long as they were doing something low-risk I don't think many people mind, and for the medical student to be there anyway consent has already been voluntarily granted by the patient (assuming all the right consent processes were followed). If a medical student is asked to do something without enough knowledge of what to do, you would hope that student will pass on their concerns to their supervisor who will either teach them and then show them the processes before handing over the reigns. Most of the clinical sites (at least for rural) have been vetted by the JCU College of Med and Dent so the supervisors know what level the student's are at, and really you make the most of your time there. If you'd prefer to be more passive and just follow the doc around that's fine, but if you want to branch out and learn by being a bit more independent, most supervisors will give you that freedom unless you're completely incompetent.

5) How long are the rural terms during your clinical years?
Year 4: 6 week rural rotation
Year 5: no dedicated rural placement outside of base hospitals Cairns, Mackay and Townsville (which are technically "rural" already)
Year 6: 10 week rural rotation (or optional 6 month rural "internship" where you complete your other 10 week rotations of aged and critical care terms during it).

Although it needs to be updated (as Darwin is no longer offered for years 5 and 6), the JCU medical student society has a pretty loose course overview on its website; Course Overview – JCUMSA should you be interested in learning a bit more.

6) Have there been cases where people had to do placements in Cairns or Mackay even if they had preferences in Townsville but couldn't be there due to higher demand from other students?
Yes, and sadly there will always be a small number of people who will miss out. Generally though it turns out Cairns actually is in more demand to Townsville as there is a perception "there is more to do in Cairns", perhaps because Cairns is seen as more of a tourist destination. Generally it's a ballot system if one site is overpreferenced outside of a small number of special consideration requests for various reasons (for example, you are from Cairns, or you have a spouse residing there). The main concern for people who stay in Townsville for year 4 is Mackay is grossly underpreferenced, and so there is some discord amongst students from Townsville who are balloted to Mackay to do their terms for 5th and 6th year. You do have the option to "switch" with another student, should both parties be willing, and there is sometimes talk of some people "buying" locations off other people.

Hope this all helps!

Edit: updated placement duration guides.
 
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