Ballinasloe Academy at Portiuncula Hospital
Ballinasloe is a small town conveniently situated on the imaginary line between Galway and Dublin just off the M6.
Getting there and transportation
Ballinasloe's location is probably its biggest asset. It's quick and easy to get here (and out of here) both by car and by public transport.
Galway - 40 minutes
Dublin - 2 hours
Galway - 1 hour (+ about 20 min if there's traffic)
Dublin - 2 h 30 min
(bus stop is right in front of the hospital)
Galway - 45 min
Dublin - 1 hour 50 min
What's it like in Ballinasloe?
Since it’s so close to Galway, some students have opted to keep their house in Galway and commute - some by car, some by public transport. The downside of commuting is that you still have to pay expensive Galway rent PLUS the expense of commuting (petrol and tolls, bus or train fare). On the upside, you get to keep your Galway social life! Do your own cost-benefit analysis before you decide what works best for you!
As in all the academy towns, rent is much cheaper in B-sloe than in Galway (e.g. a 3-bed house for 500-600 euro), and there are a lot of good rental apartments in student use near the hospital. The University of Limerick School of Medicine actually rent out houses and accommodate their students for short rotations. NUIG students have to rent houses on their own, but if you contact students in the group ahead of you, you can find housing easily enough.
Grocery shopping is convenient: there’s a SuperValu across the road from the hospital, and Lidl, Aldi and Tesco a 15 minute walk away. There isn't a huge selection as far as clothes shopping goes, but Athlone is only a 20 minute bus ride away with a big shopping centre.
There are two gyms and pools - Kingfisher (you can switch over your student membership from Galway) and Shearwater Hotel. There are lots of sport facilities near the hospital, including astro turfs, GAA pitches and a running track. There aren't many huge hiking trails or nature walks around, but there's a bit of a forest, a few fields and the banks of the River Suck to explore if you're in the mood for it!
Islam in Ballinasloe
There are adequate places of prayer. There is one in the academy building for daily prayers and one in town for Friday prayers and daily jamaah prayers.
For halal shops, there are two halal kebab place, one Indian cuisine restaurant and one Asian restaurant, although the halal food is only the chicken based menu. Unfortunately, raw poultry meat has to be purchased from Galway.
There's a newly furbished public library in town. The most popular meeting spot is cosy Kariba's which is nice for lunch or tea. The hotels in town do lovely dinners, and there are a good few take-out places, Fusion (Malaysian, Thai, Chinese food) being one of the favourites.
There are a few pubs but they tend to be quiet. With the money you save in rent you'll be able to afford to go up to Galway for an occasional night out, though!
You may have heard of the Ballinasloe horse fair. That happens in October - the town is filled with horse people, horses and horse shit. And there's a big fun fair!
The Ballinasloe academy takes fewer students than the other academies, because we share the hospital and the academy building with University of Limerick students. Our teaching is separate from the UL crowd for the most part, but you’ll get to make friends with them eventually as you are bound to bump into them on the wards!
Being part of a small group is a huge benefit: teaching is more individualised, you get more one-to-one time with teachers and doctors, more access to patients and it’s simply easier to ask questions and be heard! You get to know the group really well, teachers know you by name and they take time to listen to students’ wishes and requests about what to teach, and most of them are really dedicated to prep you for exams!
As far as facilities go, the old Doctor’s Res (where on-call doctors used to sleep in the olden days) has been converted to the aptly named Academy Building, which contains a number of classrooms. That's where formal teaching happens but it's also available for personal study. You can access it day and night, it has desks, practice equipment (like those dummies they use in OSCEs), lockers and wifi (which has some quality issues that the school says it is working on).
The hospital has a small library, but its opening hours are not student friendly, and there is no wifi. There are a few desktop computers with internet access, but they don’t let you access sites like Facebook or Gmail. Borrowing books from the library is easy and laid back. (Tip: the NUIG books are in the librarian's office, kind of out of sight, but feel free to walk in there! Took me a while to figure that out...) You don’t have many competitors to fight off to get the books you want, and they don’t punish you with fines if you forget to return them on time! The academy doesn’t have printing, but the library does - as long as you get there while it’s open.
The hospital doesn’t have wifi, and the stone walls do a good job of blocking phone reception as well, so it can be hard to google that drug the consultant just asked you about on the go.
The hospital has a public canteen with your basic deli food, and they don't give discounts except for tea and coffee (1 euro for staff). There's also a staff canteen which has discounted meals - breakfast in the morning and lunch/dinner later on.
Because the log books and modules are designed for Galway and don’t completely fit smaller hospitals that don’t have all of the specific specialities, it can sometimes feel like you are not seeing enough and people in Galway are getting a better experience than you are. Bear in mind that we are beginners and seeing the common, basic stuff is what’s most important, and much of it is up to yourself! We all do the same stuff in Galway anyway, so it'll all level out in the end. Meanwhile just make the best of what B-sloe has to offer!
Also, in case you were wondering what that "Portiuncula/Roscommon" bit in the placement selection form means (if that's still how they phrase it):
Portiuncula is the name of the hospital in Ballinasloe. The name came from the Italian or Portuguese (?) nuns who founded the hospital. There is really no need to even mention Roscommon as you will only attend a clinic there once a week in your psychiatry rotation in 4th med, and there will be a free bus/taxi there and back. So all you really need to know is that the academy is in Ballinasloe!
Reasons why students have chosen Ballinasloe
Why choose Ballinasloe?