Burwood Spinal Service

The Burwood Spinal Unit welcomes enquiries and is delighted to provide an overview of the service to potential candidates who may be interested in coming to the Burwood Spinal Unit (BSU) to experience a wonderful learning and training opportunity.

Why specialise in Spinal?

The BSU offers a fantastic introduction to spinal medicine, from semi acute management, right through to rehabilitation and ongoing reassessment.

Spinal medicine is an interesting specialty in its own right, however it also offers opportunity to practise in a range of other rehabilitation services. It meets the requirements for Part 1 medical training as well as formal AFRM (RACP) training requirements. Excellent clinical exposure to neurology, urology and orthopaedics is also a major advantage.

Career prospects

The Burwood Spinal Unit is a recognised site for formal training with the Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFRM) and Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

Aside from spinal medicine, rehabilitation medicine offers opportunities in the areas of Brain Injury, Stroke, Amputation, Orthopaedic, Neurological and General Rehabilitation.

Medical Staff in our Service

The BSU employs the following:

  • Three consultants
  • Two training registrar positions, one AFRM trainee and 1 service registrar. It is also suitable for rotational medical registrars
  • One house officer

The service also hosts Fellow positions at various times.

All about our service

The BSU is located on the Burwood Hospital Campus, 11km from Christchurch Hospital. The Burwood campus also provides rehabilitation services for neurorehabilitation, pain management and services to Older Persons Health and Older Persons Mental Health. It also provides elective orthopaedic surgical services and minor plastic surgery procedures. A new 220 bed hospital opened in 2016, with full radiological services to complement the existing 100 bed facilities already on site, one of which houses the spinal unit.

The BSU consists of a 30 bed inpatient unit, including 4 transitional rehabilitation beds, and is one of only two specialist spinal units in New Zealand, the other being located in Auckland.  The unit underwent major renovations in 2019 and is now a modern, purpose built unit with top quality equipment and very pleasant facilities for patients and staff.

The spinal unit provides a comprehensive regional service and covers a catchment area which includes all of the South Island of NZ and as far north as the middle of the North Island. Acute patients are admitted via Christchurch Hospital, where they are managed in conjunction with the ICU or orthopaedic teams. When medically stable, patients are transferred out to the spinal unit for ongoing rehabilitation.

The service treats traumatic spinal injured patients and also those with spinal impairment from non-traumatic causes. In addition to these services, non acute urological and upper limb surgery is undertaken onsite and trial and refill of intrathecal baclofen pumps.

A suite of reassessment services is provided, including general outpatients, spasticity clinics and scheduled reassessment clinics, both onsite and peripherally, in a range of centres by a skilled IDT team.

The BSU medical staff work in teams.  There is a registrar allocated to each team and a house officer who works across the teams.  Each team conducts formal ward rounds, as well as unscheduled inpatient meetings and there is a weekly joint ward round which includes all medical staff.

Training in our service

Clinical training is excellent with exposure to neurology (particularly spinal cord medicine), neuro-urology, microbiology, orthopaedic and radiology.

The service holds weekly journal clubs/CME sessions and provides dedicated teaching sessions within the unit. Regular training from AFRM and NZ Branch Teaching programmes are provided via remote links. There are also other teaching opportunities across the site with other services and RMOs are encouraged to attend these as much as possible.

A video conference link is set up for staff to the weekly Grand Round meeting at Christchurch Hospital.

There are online library facilities and a pleasant library setting with well stocked books from the Medical Library.


The BSU strongly supports research and there are usually multiple research activities being carried out at any time. The nature of spinal injuries attracts a wide and diverse range of research activities, often international.

There are opportunities for both clinical and academic research within the service.

The BSU is co-located with BAIL (Burwood Academy of Independent Living) which facilitates and coordinates research activity related to rehabilitation.

SMO / Kaimahi (staff) support

There is a consultant and/or registrar onsite during normal work hours to provide support and advice.

All out of hours activity is covered with the support of a consultant on call. Out of hours, the BSU provides 24 hour acute cover to both the BSU and for acute admission to Christchurch Hospital, as well as acute advice to other hospitals in the region.

Registrars participate in the BSU/Adult Rehabilitation roster, with the support of the Consultant on call. House officers participate in the Burwood-wide house officer out of hours roster.

Advantages to training at Burwood Spinal Unit, Canterbury District Health Board

The BSU is an internationally recognised spinal management service.

The BSU is located on the Burwood Hospital campus. It is situated in an attractive, park like setting. Due to the size of the campus, it is friendly and trainees can access a range of opportunities in this environment.

Trainees are encouraged to take up learning opportunities as much as possible. There is a dedicated office for both house surgeons (adjacent to the nursing station) and registrars (within the administration area) to undertake duties in a quiet environment.

There is a resource centre located onsite, which provides library services and facilities for staff and patients. It is situated in pleasant surroundings offering on-line medical library services, as well as books for learning from the medical library and personal reading.

In addition to this, there are pool facilities with scheduled hours for staff access.


Dr Raj Singhal
Clinical Director 
Phone: (+64 3) 383 6850
Email: Raj.Singhal@cdhb.health.nz

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