There are many benefits of training and working rurally. It might be your chance to practise true multi-generational medicine, enjoy an amazing work-life balance, or the opportunity to develop and hone your procedural skills. But there are a host of other interesting facets to rural medicine too; ones you may not have considered. Here’s a selection from our current GPs and medical educators.
1. Unique presentations
A GP for over 20 years, Dr Matt Masel and his wife, Dr Sue Masel, run Goondiwindi’s sole general practice. Aside from enjoying a wonderful lifestyle and deep connection with the community, Matt has been able to indulge in a unique area of medicine.
“Zoonoses is definitely an interest of mine. It covers infections that jump from animal to human. In the rural setting, they come from cattle, sheep, goats and kangaroos. It’s actually more common than you might think,” he explains.
“Over the years, I’ve become a go-to person on the topic, and even helped rewrite the training module for GPTQ.”
2. Challenging medicine
While diverse presentations are common in rural medicine, you’ll also come across cases you wouldn’t likely see in an urban clinic. Dr Naomi Bowers spent 10 years practising as a rural GP in Fernvale and Lowood, and says she ‘saw really interesting things’.
“I had a patient come in with his arm hanging off saying ‘Doctor, can you just stitch it back on?’ When I replied he needed to go to hospital, he just responded with ‘Oh really?’’ she says.
Dr Maura Harvey, a rural GP for over 30 years, has had similar experiences.
“They’d ring you at six in the morning and say, ‘Oh, sorry to disturb you Doc, but I’ve had this crushing central chest pain for the last eight hours and I just wanted to make sure you had a sleep before I woke you up’. And they’d just had a massive heart attack!” she says.
“I also had a chance to deliver babies and perform appendix surgeries. Practising rurally gives you the chance to make a really big difference. Doing more in the community by looking after people in place saves them so much angst. They don’t have to go down to the scary ‘Big Smoke’ and deal with all the traffic, the skinny lanes and the parking.”
3. Advocating for the rural community
Dr Dale Hanson worked as a GP for many years, and then spent time as an emergency physician and educator in the Mackay region.
“Learning the craft of general practice made me a much better emergency physician. Learning the craft of medical education on the floor of the ED made me a better GP teacher,” he says.
While in the emergency department, Dale saw ‘an appalling amount’ of severe injuries due to road, family and heavy industry accidents. As a result, he also began working in the community injury prevention and safety space, eventually becoming Chair of the International Safe Community Certifying Centre.
“In my lifetime, I think I’ve saved more lives with my involvement in community safety promotion, than I have as a clinician. That’s not to discount the important contribution you can make as a clinician. It just serves to highlight that by taking a proactive prevention approach, you can also have a complementary contribution that has the potential to be just as powerful.”
Another inspiring example of country community advocacy is husband and wife duo, Dr Mike Hurley and Dr Jaime Hurley. Both are GPs with specialised skills – Jamie in obstetrics and Mike in anaesthetics. They played an integral role in reopening maternity services at Beaudesert Hospital in 2014. More than 1600 babies have been born in the local area since that time.
Mike says he really appreciated the amazing opportunity to work with his wife.
“She delivered a baby by caesarean and I did the anaesthetic. That was a moment I remember thinking, we are very fortunate to be able to do this.”
Still on the fence about choosing the rural pathway?
Hopefully these stories illustrate the myriad ways your rural GP career can take you. But if you’d like to hear a few more personal experiences to help you make a decision about training on the rural pathway, consider these too: