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Future Focus: Ellen Hersee Cray

Ellen, a 2021 medical graduate of Notre Dame University, Sydney, was one of the first FutureFocus 2021 recipients to undertake her elective

Securing the opportunity to work with the Emergency Department medical team at St Vincent’s Hospital in New South Wales, Ellen not only experienced the fast pace of an Emergency Department, but witnessed the response of a large metropolitan hospital to the stressors of a pandemic. Read a full account of Ellen's experience below.


Working in an Emergency Department

The Darlinghurst area in which the hospital is situated services a diverse group of patients from the local community, majority of which are aged and/or socially disadvantaged.

The hospital services the largest population of homeless people in Australia, many of whom also suffer from mental illnesses.

Undertaking my elective in this department provided me with the opportunity to aid the healthcare team in providing immediate medical attention to those most vulnerable in the community.

The value of social work

Throughout my elective, I was able to work alongside consultants and registrars across all areas of the department, including resus, acute beds, fast track, and emergency short stay. The supervising medical staff were wonderful and welcomed me to the team, granting me the opportunity to assess and manage patients presenting with a variety of acute problems under their guidance. Most memorably, I was able to both observe and assist the team during a few tense resuscitation scenarios. 

During my time at St Vincent’s Hospital, I witnessed the implementation of additional services provided by the department to meet specific needs of the local community. These included the Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre for patients with acute mental illness, and the Indigenous Flexi-Clinic, implemented to decrease the number of Indigenous people leaving the department before completing treatment. The importance of the relationship between the medical team and social work became apparent, with many patients presenting to the department with medical emergencies along with very difficult social circumstances that required immediate attention. 

Being a part of the frontline during COVID-19

Undertaking this placement during the pandemic provided me with a unique insight into how our Emergency Departments have been affected and had to adapt to COVID-19. St Vincent’s Hospital was one of the metropolitan tertiary hospitals at the forefront of treating those presenting with severe illness during the height of the Sydney outbreak. I believe that having exposure to these systems and procedures that have been implemented to manage this pandemic, will be of great benefit to my career.

Elective conclusion

Overall, I could not speak highly enough of my experience at the St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department, and would recommend it to anyone thinking of undertaking their elective in emergency. This experience has not only been invaluable to my learning and preparation for internship but has further inspired me to pursue Emergency Medicine going forward in my career.

Receiving the BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grant was incredibly helpful in assisting me throughout my elective placement. I was able to use the grant to cover the cost of transport, food and other essentials to supplement my income whilst I was unable to undertake paid employment. The grant allowed me to focus on my elective experience fully and relieve any financial stress that I would have otherwise had.



Developed exclusively for medical and dental students, each year the BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grants provide students with the opportunity to undertake an elective so that their commitment to helping others can be realised. Applications for our FutureFocus Grant open in May and close in August. 

You can also access funds to help undertake an overseas placement, with our Student Banking Package.


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      The information contained in this webpage is general in nature and has been provided in good faith, without taking into account your personal circumstances. While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate and opinions fair and reasonable, no warranties in this regard are provided.