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Sam Burrows
Otago Sports Injuries Clinic, Dunedin, New Zealand

Clinical interest: Sports medicine

Where? I spent May 2016 working in the Dunedin sports injury clinic.

Why? I decided to travel to New Zealand for a number of reasons: I wanted to work in a healthcare setting not too dissimilar from the UK; I knew that it was a popular destination for emigrating doctors and wanted to see what the fuss was about; I fancied somewhere I could ski during June; and most importantly, although I wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for, the placement looked perfect.

How? About 10 years ago a medical student found the clinic online, after a few emails his placement was organised. Fortunately for me (and potentially you) this student submitted a review to the electives network. Since then the clinic has mainly attracted students through the electives network.

What? As a student undecided on their career pathway I found it difficult in deciding what I wanted to do. But when the clinic responded to me I instantly realised this was an opportunity not to miss. The placement affords 3 main opportunities.

The bulk of the work takes place in the clinic. This will be all day Saturday and a few hours Sunday (around midday), Tuesday (evening) and Thursday (evening). The clinic is supervised by a doctor and physio, however the vast majority of the work is done by students – these include dentistry, medicine and (mainly) physio students. As such there is a friendly atmosphere to the place. Saturday’s are a day of two halves. In the morning sportsmen and sportswomen attend the clinic for support strapping, a skill I learnt from the physio students, before their matches. From late morning onwards the injuries come in. I worked 5 Saturdays and saw a wide range of injury. Mostly players come in with sprains, but there were also contusions, fractures, Achilles tendon ruptures, Osgood Schlatter’s and Severs disease, panic attacks etc. As a medical student I attended many head knocks, I was taught how to take a comprehensive assessment and later in the placement I was involved in delivering post-concussion advice. The elective also gave me my first opportunity to suture, and I learnt how to apply a wide range of dressings that I was never taught back home.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the placement was the work I did the Highlanders RFC – one of the Super XIII rugby teams. Unfortunately for me the Highlander’s team doctor had his own elective student and so I was only able to work with the match doctor (i.e. I wasn’t able to attend training as I had hoped). During the two matches I worked I was mainly based in the medical room, where I assisted any injuries sustained during play. I also learnt about the brain box, and its role in assessing for head knocks.

The final aspect of my placement was High School rugby. The clinic has ties with Otago Boys High School, and I spent a few days in their physio run clinic assessing the schoolboys following any injuries.

Weeks 1-4 A key reason in choosing the elective was the amount of free time afforded. I did not want to spend four full weeks in a hospital. The four weeks I spent in Dunedin were quite quiet. Renting a car was a must (and very affordable between two), and so we were able to see bits of the South Island whilst on placement – particular mention has to go to Milford Sounds which is a spectacular fjord.

Week 5 After the placement we travelled up to Christchurch and then crossed into the North Island. Here we skydived, did the 10 hour Tongariro crossing trek (I recommend you take more than 500ml of water), had nights out in Wellington and went to the geothermal springs. We chose to miss out Auckland because one of our group had done their elective there, and much of the coast because we were advised they were mainly summer attractions.

Week 6 We then returned to the South Island and made our way down the west coast. We went sea kayaking on the Abel Tasman, and failed to see the Franz Josef glacier (the weather had set in so we could not take the helicopter tour).

Weeks 7-9 We had decided to end our trip with 3 weeks of skiing and so ended up in Wanaka and Queenstown (I am currently intercalating, so I didn’t need to return for fifth year – I spent a total of 7 weeks in Queenstown). Queenstown is ridiculously fun, there is so much to do here but unfortunately we had been rather heavy handed with our money previously and our skiing was expensive, so we missed out on bungee jumping and white water rafting experiences.

The skiing was, if you are used to the big alps, minimal. The snow wasn’t its best this season which didn’t help either. But there was a good ski park and some (albeit short) off piste. I would advise only skiing for a few days as it was expensive and wasn’t phenomenal – whereas there is so much to do around New Zealand which is phenomenal. A particularly amazing (and free) activity to do whilst in Queenstown is to climb Ben Lomond, a 1750m mountain – although it is not for the fainthearted.

A word of advice. If you are going to Queenstown book your hostel in advance – it was the only place we struggled to find beds.

All in all, the elective was greatly rewarding. The clinic work definitely gave improved my ability assessing a wide range of MSK injuries and concussions, but I feel the benefits go further than simply giving me a grounding in sports medicine – performing so many histories and examinations has improved my confidence greatly.

Sam Burrows

Pitch side with Graeme

To see an unedited version of Sam's report, please contact info@electives.net.
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