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From nursing to medicine and beyond
Author: Christina Sexton
Photographer: All photos used with permission.
ACU alumnus Dr Amran Dhillon made the move from nursing to medicine and is now using his dancing skills to spread the word about social distancing.
Working as a rural GP and anaesthetic trainee was never a straight-forward path for Amran, who detoured through engineering and nursing before finding his way to medicine – with some dancing on the side.
“It started with an engineering degree. My dad said I was constantly fixing things as a kid, and I did physics at school and I was always good at maths. But it only took half a year before I realised engineering wasn’t for me.
“What I did know is I’m a people person. I’ve always been good at customer service and conflict management, which probably started back when I was 15 and working for McDonald’s. So, I knew I wanted to work with people.”
“I loved it. In emergency, there’s lots of procedures, you get to work closely with the doctors, you have to make quick decisions and you get to make an impact on patients when they’re at their most vulnerable.
“But back when I was in the middle of my clinical placement during my nursing degree, I noticed I was doing a lot of sticky beaking at what the doctors were doing.”
Amran went on to complete two years working as a registered nurse before beginning a postgraduate degree in medicine. He is now working as a sessional GP in Ballan in country Victoria and is almost midway through his training to become a specialist anaesthetist, currently based in Ballarat.
“What I learnt as a nursing student is how to adapt. Now in medicine, it’s the hardest thing – you’re constantly having to adapt to new teachers, new equipment, and new environments.
“Luckily, I love working in a regional town. When you’re a rural GP, emergency needs to be in your repertoire, and I’ve definitely called on my nursing experience here. You often have to act as a paramedic too, as in rural towns you’re it, you have to figure it out.
“I always think nurses and doctors should try working away from the big cities. You learn so many new skills and become a much more adaptable and versatile health care practitioner – I want to see the MacGyver doctors and nurses who can do it all out here with me!”
A moving message
It’s obvious that sitting still isn’t Amran’s strong suit, and he has recently added business owner to his already crowded résumé.
Media Doctors Australia, which Amran formed with fellow doctor, Dr Kelly Champane, aims to relay health messages in innovative formats that speak to diverse Australian communities.
“There’s still a big disconnect between the public and the medical community, and it’s especially evident with the global pandemic that we’re experiencing right now.
“So, our aim is become a conduit between the medical world and the general public, delivering health care messages as a known, trusted voice through creative videography and social media.”
First up for Media Doctors Australia is Project COVID, which for Amran meant brushing up on his dance skills.
“I’ve been dancing since I was a kid, but back in those days I was the only boy in the class which led me to quit. Since then, I’ve got back into it and it’s a big passion of mine.
“I thought using dance to relay health messages creatively would help improve everyone’s health literacy. Every day on Facebook I see people searching for opinions from a trusted medical source, so I know the audience is there.”
Project COVID is a contemporary dance piece that spreads the word of social distancing and hand washing hygiene in a unique way. Amran hopes it’s the first of many to come.
Amran is the first to admit his career path has been a little unusual, and while he found his calling in medicine, nursing will always be his first passion.
“Nursing opens up so many doors. You can pursue clinical work like I did, but in the hospitals where I’m working now, nurses are also executives and directors.
"Nurses are managing COVID-19 outbreaks, they’re working in government, they’re in education and they’re on the frontlines.
“Admittedly it was a tough degree. When I was at ACU I found myself doing my placement for five days, then I had a casual job on Saturdays and Sundays and studying at the same time. It was full on. But my advice to students now is just keep going. Nursing will always be a fantastic career.”