Ever considered training rurally? If you’re on the fence, GPTQ registrar Isaac Tranter’s experiences may help. Currently doing his GP terms at Goondiwindi Medical Centre, Isaac shares key insights into what it’s like to work in a rural community.
The advantages of studying rurally
When it came time to do his medical degree, Isaac chose James Cook University (JCU), splitting his six years between Townsville and Cairns.
“I had a really great time up in Townsville. I had the chance to experience a wide range of medical training in rural and remote environments, particularly with groups who need extra support, such as Indigenous Australians and refugees,” he says.
His time at JCU helped cement his decision to do GP training via the rural pathway.
“Even now, four years after finishing uni, I think back to what I learnt during that time and still apply it. It’s not likely I would have had those same experiences if I studied at a metropolitan university.”
As for advice for medical students contemplating rural training, Isaac says: “It’s such a fantastic opportunity to gain a broad range of skills, especially as there aren’t as many people in the hierarchy above you in a rural hospital. If there are rural terms available, I’d say, go for it.”
The best things about training rurally
Isaac currently works four days a week at Goondiwindi Medical Centre, a practice run by GPTQ medical educators, Sue and Matt Masel. His fifth workday sees Isaac at the local hospital, treating patients in the emergency room and on the wards.
“The Goondiwindi Medical Centre is such a fantastic place to work because all of the partners are really good teachers and very supportive. They have so much insightful knowledge to impart from their years of experience,” he says.
While there are many things Isaac loves about practising rurally, continuity of patient care is a big one.
“We only have one GP practice in Goondiwindi and all our GPs work at the hospital too. If one of our patients is admitted, the flow of information from primary care to the hospital setting is seamless. When they get discharged, it’s really easy to update their GP about their admission, and what follow up is required,” he says.
The other advantage of training in a rural practice is the procedural scope.
“If people living in an urban centre have a skin issue, they can opt to see a dermatologist or other skin specialist. But living rurally, it’s a big burden to travel four hours to Brisbane for a procedure that could potentially be done locally. So you’re more likely to do these procedures and boost your knowledge, simply because people prefer to be seen by their GP.”
Isaac understands not everyone wants to be a rural general practitioner for the long term, but advocates even just a short stint of six to twelve months.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to enhance your skills, especially as you don’t feel like you have to refer everything on. And realistically, out here you can’t. It gives you more confidence when treating patients, and that translates into you becoming a better doctor overall.”
Consider extending yourself while training
Apart from his clinical duties, Isaac is also GPTQ’s Rural Registrar Liaison Officer (RLO) for the Goondiwindi region.
“Registrars dial in for a fortnightly teaching session and we all present cases and learn a bit from each other. At the end of the meeting, we speak about any issues we’ve had during the fortnight. If I need to, I then bring them up with GPTQ’s central Rural Registrar Liaison Officer, Ghazal. The RLO role is not one I’ve taken on before, but it’s been really good,” he says.
Isaac also has a half-time academic post lined up for next year at The University of Queensland (UQ), alongside his clinical duties at another rural GP practice in Jimboomba. At UQ, he’ll be researching immunisation rates in older Australians.
“The government funds three different vaccines for patients aged 65 and over. At the moment, the uptake isn’t great. I’m going to explore why, and what can be done to improve immunisation rates in that age group. I’ll also be teaching third-year medical students once a week, as well as helping them with their exam preparation. I’m really looking forward to it,” he says.