The NSW Dr Autumn 2024 - Health Hackathon

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Inspiring the next generation to tackle the health challenges of the future

OVER TWO JAM PACKED DAYS, the Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU), Regional Industry Education Partnerships from the Dept. of Education, and the Ministry of Health hosted the inaugural Health Hackathon at Westmead Hospital. 27 students from Colyton, Erskine Park, Model Farms and Windsor High Schools participated in the event.

THE AIM: To upskill students through industry connections, broaden awareness of careers in health and empower students to develop a health education campaign on an issue of their choosing.

THE WINNER: ‘‘You Don’t Need Vapes to Have Fun!’’ by Model Farms High School, chosen for its simple yet effective approach in engaging young people and utilising infamous TikTok trends to raise awareness of the harms of vaping and denormalise it amongst adolescents.

“For vaping, it would be a reality check of what actually can happen to your body. Because a lot of people, they think that ‘Oh yeah it’s not going to happen to me.’” - Student, Model Farms High School

Feedback revealed a significant improvement in students’ understanding of the health industry, with many expressing a newfound interest in careers in health.

“It’s been great fun. I got to know a lot about things like AI, marketing, social media, what is behind what we actually see – what is behind the screen, and about NSW Health, and how much our government spends.” – Student Feedback from school staff echoed these sentiments.

“They have learnt about different careers and roles available in the health system. They have learnt to work as a team to create and implement a campaign about a health issue that they feel is important” – Staff member

University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine & Health director, Professor Smita Shah said the Hackathon was a crucial step in preparing young minds to tackle the health challenges of the future.

“This is an example of how, when kids feel empowered and then really want to make a difference in our schools.” dr.

Catriona Lockett, Research Officer, Kym Rizzo Liu, Project Manager, Prof. Smita Shah OAM University of Sydney, Faculty of Med. & Health Dir.



Anaesthetist Dr Katherine Jeffrey shares her journey into the world of anaesthetics.


They are terms from the US and the UK respectively, which refer to the time of year when new medical graduates enter the hospital system. The theory goes that as the influx of new doctors arrives, medical errors skyrocket and patient outcomes drop. Despite the fact this so- called “July effect” has been debunked (1,2) the impression remains.

Day one of the medical new year brings not only new graduates but new consultants. They hit the wards, bringing fresh ideas and new skills, maybe from an interstate or overseas fellowship, to apply to new patients.

Consultants, be prepared for the stigma of the “July Effect”. On day one you become “the boss”, the person to call when the registrar cannot get a secure airway. Administration/ teaching duties are increased, and you face the regular diary check to remind yourself when you are on call.

Learn to deal with new and tricky financial responsibilities.There’s a more complex tax return, MDO insurance, income protection and the first steps into home ownership.

Recognise that post-Covid, the employment market is very different. There are fewer staff specialist positions. VMO roles are considered the more flexible option and are increasingly the only option for employment in hospitals. There is now a known shortage of anaesthetists in the NSW public

system, particularly in the peripheral metro hospitals and regional/rural facilities. With the NSW Government Inquiry into Healthcare Funding and stories alleging price gouging by locum agencies(3) as well as the possibility of changes to the remuneration of NSW doctors, many are reassessing employment choices(4)

Even the private hospital system is no longer as attractive to anaesthetists. Private health insurers are capping payments to reduce costs and increase profits, and changes in the RVG (relative value guide) have led to the modification in remuneration for anaesthetists which many say is for the worse.

When you add other post Covid issues such as “Compassion Fatigue”(5), with many looking for a better work-life balance those first months can feel like a hostile journey.” dr.

Dr Katherine Jeffrey is a Consultant Anaesthetist at Gosford Hospital (VMO) and a Staff Specialist at Nepean Hospital. Dr Jeffrey also works as a Medical Retrieval Consultant for CareFlight, NT.

Questions to ask yourself as a new consultant

Simple principles to help you navigate this large step, as a “newish” consultant (Year 4 out), other specialties and junior doctors.

• What lifestyle you want (part-time/full-time)? Family commitments

• VMO vs Staff Specialist? Basically, contractor VS salary plus benefits including TESL, super and leave

• Public vs Private? Think about responsibility, or as one colleague once explained, “with or without registrar” and the financial benefits

• Make life easier. Pay a professional. Tax, insurance, mortgage broker, cleaner, gardener, nanny

• How many hospitals do you want to work in?

• What on-call commitments are you willing to accept? Who do you want to work with? (In anaestheisa, that is commonly a surgeon.) A poor relationship with a surgeon is like a bad marriage

• Do you want a passion project? Mine is Bridging the Gap and doctor education/welfare.

• Career Diversification Mine is is Retrieval Medicine and Anaesthesia

• Will you pay it forward? Teaching, administration, research, voluntary work, quality assurance, AMA advocacy, or in your professional college

• Education Colleges/professional organisations run courses on transitioning into consultancy

• DON’T be afraid to ask for help. You should never feel alone.

The journey into consultancy can be complex. However, if you plan, ask questions, do your research, use the resources available in all specialties, the transition will be smoother. For Katherine’s References, please scan the QR code.

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