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Jess Phillips-Yelland arrived in Kingaroy (population 10,000) nine months ago, ready to embark on her second year of GP training.

She had selected the rural town, located in Queensland’s South Burnett Region about 2.5 hours northwest of Brisbane, based on the endorsement of a fellow registrar. He was already on placement at South Burnett Medical Centre—where she would train—and couldn’t recommend the learning environment highly enough.

So Jess knew she was about to grow her knowledge and skills as a GP in exciting new ways.

What she didn’t anticipate was the weight of the impact working and living in this outback community would have on her.

Here are five discoveries Jess has made so far.

 

  1. That GP is right for me.

Like many of her registrar contemporaries Jess hasn’t come to General Practice direct from junior doctor training—she’d already lived another life as a medico.

Now PGY9, Jess first spent four years undertaking training in obstetrics and gynaecology, working in major teaching hospitals in New South Wales and South East Queensland, before making the switch to GP.

She made the decision, not because her interest in O&G and the practise of surgical medicine wavered, but following a realisation that rural General Practice could offer great work/life balance.

Jess says General Practice presented a pathway where she could see herself being able to ‘have it all’.

Her time in Kingaroy has helped confirm this.

“My working week is now this perfect mix of General Practice and hospital medicine,” she says.

Jess currently spends two full days each week consulting at South Burnett Medical Centre and fulfils a four-day roster at Kingaroy Hospital every fortnight.

“I love the structure of my GP days and being able to build a list of patients who I can get to know and provide real continuity of care to,” she says.

“The more fluid nature of working at the hospital [as a provisional Senior Medical Officer] means I’m practising obstetrics and working in the ED and General Medicine ward,” she explains.

“It’s a lot of variety and that’s really exciting.”

 

  1. Out here your colleagues have really ‘got you’.

Jess says the close-knit local medical community she has been welcomed into in Kingaroy has made the past nine months a highlight on her training journey.

There are three established GPs at her training practice.

“The practice environment here is pretty wonderful,” Jess says.

“I am learning so much. I get a dedicated hour each week with the practice principals [Drs Brent and Jenny Fulcher], where we will practise cases and they will work with me on exam preparation.”

Jess says the local hospital then rosters her four fortnightly ‘mobile’ 10-hour shifts so they don’t encroach on any of her GP commitments.

“The hospital is really good about helping me ensure my GP days are protected time and that I don’t have a hospital shift the night before a practice day or just after coming off one,” she explains.

“Also, when I arrived I was a bit nervous about going straight into the hospital setting as a Senior Medical Officer (SMO), so they started me as a Principal House Officer (PHO). That really helped ease the transition, which I was grateful for.”

Local medicos do their best to make sure new registrars like Jess are welcomed into the community in a social sense too.

“It’s kind of a ready-made medical family, which is nice,” Jess says.

“There are a number of other GP registrars training in town, then there’s our practice staff and newly fellowed doctors at the hospital and the nurses…plenty of people to get out and explore the region with.”

“One senior doctor at Kingaroy Hospital has dinner at a local pub once a fortnight with a standing invitation for whoever is free to join him,” she adds.

 

  1. Country communities come with a lot of heart.

Though it is only nine months since Jess packed her car and made the drive from her Brisbane base to Kingaroy, the township framed by farmlands and low rolling hills is already starting to feel like home.

“Kingaroy has a warmth that puts you instantly at ease,” she says.

“It’s nice to have people stopping to say hello to you at the supermarket and making new friends by getting involved in the local sporting clubs and arts activities is fun.”

Jess says she has found practising medicine in a regional community also seems to allow for deeper doctor-patient connections to be formed.

“I really love that the crossover between my GP work and doing obstetrics at the hospital means looking after women through a pregnancy and birth doesn’t end there,” she says.

“Then I get to care for these women and their babies in the practice as their GP and continue to help in the management of a whole family’s health.”

A patient’s healthcare mindset can also be a little different in a regional community, Jess says.

“Patients can present later here and they really appreciate the opportunity to be cared for locally, which means as doctors we are managing cases more fully and for longer than our city counterparts,” she explains.

“There’s a little endorphin rush that comes with knowing you have achieved a good outcome for your patient by coordinating their care and allowing much of it to occur in the local community, without them having to travel several hours to a regional or city centre,” Jess says.

“We are able to do this with the support of visiting specialists and an ever-improving telehealth service.”

 

  1. Little things can make a big difference.

Jess’ first year GP training placement—at a GP clinic on the outskirts of Brisbane—was a 40-minute commute from home.

While the experience she gained was invaluable, she’s willing to admit that the now five-minute commute from her share house in Kingaroy to both the GP practice and the hospital will be hard to give up.

“It’s just another factor that makes leading a full and balanced life more possible for me here,” she says.

Of course, her patients benefit too.

On call overnight recently Jess received a page at one in the morning and went from slumber to scrubs in just eight minutes!

 

  1. Working to live is the way to go

For Jess 2021 has been a year heavy with exams, which she says has curtailed some of her plans for extracurricular fun.

But with these burdens set to lift in 2022, she has already signed on to do a second year of GP training in Kingaroy and is looking forward to relaxing into life a little more and making the most of opportunities to explore all the region has to offer.

A flutist since age eight, Jess has plans to join the South Burnett Community Choir and is also thinking about signing up to play for a local netball team.

She has been to the nearby Bunya Mountains to explore the walking trails only twice so far and wants to make this a regular activity.

The region’s collection of wineries and bike riding along the Kingaroy Rail Trail are on the list too.

“There is so much to see and do here, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet,” Jess says.

“And, being this close to Brisbane—and my family on the Gold Coast—means a weekend away is very doable.”

 

Opportunities for GP registrars in Kingaroy and surrounds

Are you a GP registrar?

There are a number of training placement opportunities available in the South Burnett Region and you can avail of financial incentives provided by GPTQ under our Rural Registrar Incentive, Reimbursement and Support policy (see MyGPTQ) too.

FARGP registrars looking to undertake Advanced Skills training are well catered for, with opportunities in GP anaesthetics, emergency medicine and general medicine available.

Please contact Jill-Anne Wheeler of our Rural Projects Team at jwheeler@gptq.qld.edu.au.

Background details

  • Jess is a RACGP registrar training on the AGPT general pathway. She is undertaking both a FRACGP and a FARGP.
  • She completed her RANZCOG Advanced Skills training in obstetrics during her previous hospital obstetrics training.
  • Her first year of GP training was granted as Recognition of Prior Learning due to her extensive hospital training.