A new cohort of medical students keen to experience the rewards and challenges of rural health have arrived in Karratha to start their year-long placements in the region.

Penultimate-year University of Western Australia medical students Kate Schleicher, Grace Williams, Claire Eatwell, Tim Smith and James Little were introduced to the Pilbara during a packed orientation around Karratha earlier this month and will spend the next 10 months on rotations at Nickol Bay Hospital and local GP clinics.

Ms Schleicher, 23, originally from Geraldton, said she had opted for a year in the North West mainly to learn more about Aboriginal health. “I started learning about it at uni and found an interest through that, but I haven’t had a lot of experience in it, so I’m looking forward to hopefully getting that up here,” she said. “I’m interested in rural health in general. I think it’s very different to what you get in the metropolitan area.”

“You get broader experience in everything, and I think the lifestyle is really good.”

Mr Little, 23, said he hoped working in the country would involve more hands-on experience than students typically had in Perth.

“Sometimes you’ll be the only student here, so you’ll get a lot more hands-on experience and a lot more one-on-one teaching, whereas in a city, hospital doctors are flat out with their patients and then if they have a bit of time, they’ll teach you one or two things,” he said. “Here, you can actually be the first point of contact, and you can do it all.”

All of the students said they had enjoyed their first week in town and were keen to be involved in the community and explore the Pilbara during their time here.

Rural Clinical School of WA medical co-ordinator Rob Whitehead said regional placements provided a good opportunity for students to become immersed in a country health setting.

“I think the program exists because we know it’s quite hard to get doctors to the area, so we hope if we bring these guys up to the Pilbara and give them a great experience, they’re going to vote with their feet and return as full-time medical practitioners,” he said.