Saturday, May 7, 2011

I think I've got it all figured out!

Okay, so a big claim to make... but at times, amongst the choas and confusion that comes with having to make a million and one choices about life, career, holidays, etc, there are moments (probably short-lived) when one feels like they've got it all figured out.

For starters - application for medical internship positions in NSW opened yesterday. It's been a horrendous task deciding how to preference the 15 or so networks on offer because really, at the end of the day, you could end up with preference 1 or preference 9 (for the past 3 years 100% of first round allocations were within the first 9 preferences). So you have to be realistic about deciding which places you'd be happy working in, even if they're not your first preferences. I chose to preference based on geography (hospitals close-ish to where I live), but also taking into considerations places that have accredited vocational (specialist) training programs that you're interested in. At the end of the day, I wouldn't be thrilled getting preferences 7, 8 or 9, but it wouldn't be the end of the world either. I haven't put in my official application yet as I need to get a letter from the university confirming my enrolment and potential graduation status, so hopefully will do that in the next couple of weeks. Beyond the anxiety and stress of this completely random allocation system, it's so exciting to be applying for a "real" job (and really, for me this is the first job that I have applied for since getting my job at the pharmacy 10 years ago!).

Next up - thinking seriously and realistically about specialities. Still a bit early, but it does help to have an idea as it could influence where you preference higher for internship hospitals (ie some hospitals have better a reputation than others when it comes to certain specialities). So I've been going backwards and forwards between emergency medicine and O&G; but since starting my anaesthetics rotation 2 weeks ago, I've disregarded both!! Anaesthetics is it, really I just know it! A few years ago, at the end of my first year of medical school, I went on a 2 week elective to Fiji where, while on a surgical rotation, saw anaesthetics in practice for the first time. It was then that I thought anaesthetics could be for me; but with little exposure since, I hadn't really considered it to any great deal. Having just finished gynae surg in the rotation prior to this, I'm now fair sure that at least the G part of O&G is definitely NOT for me. I was so disinterested and just plain bored by the end of the rotation; even though I applied myself as much as I could (I really did!!).. but it got me thinking and moving away from O&G in light of this. Also didn't help that I went to Phuket straight afterwards, which then got me thinking even more about how much I value my holidays and travelling, that I truely appreciated how offensive a career in O&G would be to one's leisure time :-S Anyway, this rotation couldn't have come at a better time. It's been priceless having consultants and registrars on board to talk to about the training program and what is involved in the way of time commitments during and after training. Also the rotation itself has been a good mix of the practical and theoretical. I got my first ET intubation this week! I tried 3 times without success but can now proudly say that I have done a few (4 in fact!) successful intubations. I've also gotten some invaluable practice in other skills (more essential for an intern) such as supporting an airway and ventilating in the correct way using jaw thrust, sealed mask and bag; as well as some much-needed practice in cannulating. Between cases, my supervisors have all gone out of their way to give me tutorials on the basics of anaesthetic theory which have helped demystify what is otherwise a potentially complex area of medicine. I wish this rotation was longer than just 4 weeks - I would love to go into greater detail with the theory and learn new skills.

This brings the third area which I've (sort of) finally organised - my elective term. It'll be my last elective as a medical student, I always thought I would go somewhere totally out of this world; picturing in my mind an imagine of my hands buried elbow-deep in someone's open thoracic cavity, heroically performing a cardiac massage (I have no idea where I even got this image from - I don't even want to become a surgeon let alone a CT surgeon!). Lots of people from my year are going to Africa, some even braving the likes of Bara in Jo'burg - but now that it's come to it, I've found myself not really that ready or compelled to take on such an adventure. So I thought long and hard (well, not that long and hard as you will see) and have decided to return to Fiji one more time, to where it all began, and complete an elective in anaesthetics - this time with a little bit more knowledge and wisdom than last. I'm very excited actually, it almost feels like a home-coming. I made a lot of friends and met some wonderful characters when I was there last, so it will be nice to see them all again. Another thing, this time I plan on travelling around and experiencing Fiji culture away from Suva. I've set my sights on booking a 7-night diving trip with Tui Tai expeditions, to venture out away from the tourist tracks that tend to be quite numerous around Fiji.

Anyway, much to look forward to! On a toned-down note - I have a mid-year exam in about 10 days that I have done absolutely no study for. So on that note I will leave you, and probably check back in again before I head off to Mudgee for my third John Flynn Placement.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: The Pavilions Phuket

Several weeks before departing for our week-long vacation to Phuket, one of my well-travelled mentors at work gasped at horror that I would want to venture anywhere near the well-beaten tourist track that is Phuket. This made me somewhat apprehensive before our departure; but luckily all this melted away (making room for some much needed rest and relaxation) within minutes of arriving at The Pavilions. Perfectly situated somewhat north of the island of Phuket, it is well-clear of the chaotic touristy areas surrounding Patong Beach - but relatively close enough of a commute if you still wanted to go there. Also, this hotel does not cater for families with young children which - and don't get me wrong, I love kids! - makes it an ideal setting for those looking for a spot of tranquility and maturity that only a child-free setting can provide.

Our Villa was wonderfully spacious, very well-appointed and tastefully furnished. We had an infinity pool with breath-taking views of the ocean and the weather was perfect for taking a dip any time of the day or night! The open-air breakfast lounge provided an amazing soul-lifting back-drop to enjoy the very tasty breakfast each morning. Although not as extensive as your average 5-star hotel breakfast buffet; each item had been thoughtfully selected, providing guests with a "best of" range to choose from, with the main items (e.g. eggs, waffles) offered from an la carte menu and thus made fresh to order. The French toast and green mango smoothie made a particular impression on this foodie's tastebuds! We ate at their signature restaurant 360° twice - again, spectacular views of the surrounding hills and ocean provide a wonderful ambience to sample a fusion of traditional and modern Thai food. Other culinary delights of note are the Pavilion Platters that can be ordered to your villa to enjoy as a snack by your pool or on your sun lounge - we tried both the Savoury and Chocolate Fondue Platters and highly recommend both!

I also tried two of the spa treatments: a traditional Thai massage and an Aromatherapy Oil massage - both of which sent me to a completely different, blissful place; I cannot even find the words to portray the experience with justice! Le sigh!

The staff at The Pavilions are extremely professional and discreet; but still manage to genuinely portray the hospitality of Thai culture with their warm smiles, greetings and interactions such that one feels like they are returning home every evening, rather than as a guest.

In conclusion, a word or two on Phuket as a destination. It's easy to see how a well-travelled continental drifter may view Phuket as a predictable destination, not worthy of exploration - particularly if you do go to areas that are jam-packed full of tourists and families that have obviously come on one of those "kids stay, eat, and play for free" budget holidays (nothing wrong with that at all - just company who may not be to everyone's taste). I will be the first to admit - we came to Phuket specifically knowing that we would get more for our dollar than travelling virtually anywhere in Australia - and would be able to stay in luxurious accommodation at a fraction of the cost. Herein lies the challenge for you as a traveller, to create your own unique experience away from the beaten track. I believe that staying in a boutique hotel away from the main tourist areas, like The Pavilions, will serve an ideal setting to help you appreciate this beautiful part of the world. I also highly recommend hiring a car and Navman while you're there to get around - it's so easy to drive here and it means you're not tied down to doing set day-trips with tourist companies. Drive to a fishing village to meet the locals; or have a picnic on a secluded beach - the staff at The Pavilions are more than happy to give you directions. Another activity that I highly recommend is learning how to scuba diving and taking a diving trip out in the Andaman Sea - there are some gorgeous diving sites, the water temperature is warm all year long and the big bonus of course, there will only ever be a handful of other people joining you on these trips!