FINAL-YEAR medical students training have put up their hand to help if coronavirus cases overwhelm the region.
The students, who are taking part in the Western Sydney University Bathurst Rural Clinical School, will have to go without seeing family and friends if they are called on in a COVID-19 crisis.
"About two to three weeks ago, we put out a call to have our students consider being trained as pre-interns, which means that when and if the [coronavirus] tsunami hits us, the medical students in their final year can be turned into resident medical officers in the hospital," Dr Ross Wilson said.
Dr Wilson is director of rural training with the university.
"The impressive thing was that we got a 100 per cent take-up here [among the students in Bathurst] and I think we got about a 97 per cent, 98 per cent [take-up] throughout the whole of the Western Sydney cohort," he said.
"We have 16 students here and 18 up in Lismore.
"I was very, very impressed with that sort of uptake. It meant that if you took the job up in Bathurst, you would be stuck in Bathurst as an intern until this crisis was over, which means separating yourself from your family and friends."
Dr Wilson said the students have been trained over the past two weeks to assume the role as a pre-intern or assistant in medicine.
"They would step into the role should they be needed in the next few weeks or months," he said.
It was a big undertaking on their part in a number of ways, he said.
"They would not be expected to be graduated until January and would not be in the hospitals until January, so this is a real step forward," he said.
"They haven't even sat their final exams yet.
"The greater undertaking is that they were prepared to stay in Bathurst, where they have spent the past 10 months or so, and separate from family."
Student Elizabeth Skalkos, who is a Sydneysider, said offering her help was the right decision.
"I think it was something that we all had to think about, but we felt very welcomed by the Bathurst community and very supported by the medical staff in Bathurst," she said.
"I think we actually felt perhaps more comfortable doing it here and doing it where we know the people and community."
She said she started considering medicine in the "back end of high school" for a number of reasons, including the concept of lifelong learning.
"I'm very interested in science and I think people are interesting," she said.
"I think medicine is a good combination of all those things."
And she said she would like to pursue rural medicine once she graduates.
"That's one of the reasons I came out here," she said. "We had a choice to come out here last year with the intention of staying for a year.
"Of course, now things have changed and it doesn't look like I will be going back to Sydney for a bit yet."