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Dr Adareeka Jayasinghe

Meet GPTQ medical educator, Dr Adareeka Jayasinghe

Dr Brendan Triggs (featured image)

Growing up in North Queensland, Dr Adareeka Jayasinghe saw first-hand how the lack of doctors in rural areas can impact the lives of families. This influenced her decision to choose medicine.

“Being in a rural area we just had the local GP who was only there a few days a week,” she says. “If you needed to see a specialist you had to go to Townsville which was a bit of a drive. I had a sick grandfather with prostate cancer at the time and my parents were constantly doing trips up to Townsville to see his doctor. I knew from an early age that I wanted to help address the lack of doctors in regional areas.”

Return to the bush

Adareeka grew up in North Queensland. With her family moving to Brisbane later on, she completed her studies in the big smoke. But when the opportunity arose to head to another remote corner of Australia and study medicine she leapt at the chance.

“I was selected to do medicine in Tasmania,” she says. “I enjoyed it – all six years of med school. I enjoyed the different experience of being away from home.”

A diverse profession

When it came to choosing her speciality, the decision was obvious early on.

“At med school, there was a lot of focus on general practice,” she says. “A lot of our teachers were GPs and stressed that you need to know a little bit about everything. That sparked my interest.”

That diversity is what Adareeka still values most about her job.

“The variety is what I enjoy, not knowing what’s going to walk through your door. It could be something challenging or it could be something easily solvable.”

Learning general practice

Having grown up in Far North Queensland, Adareeka was only too happy to return as part of her training.

“I did a rural relieving term at Laidley near Gatton,” she says. “It was for about 10 weeks and I really got thrown in the deep end. You were it for the patients.”

Those early experiences were some of the most thrilling and formative of her training.

“I remember the first time I was running a cardiac arrest on my own. It was scary because in the hospital system you’re not the lead doctor you’re just following instructions. It was so much easier being told what to do than telling other people what to do. But I look back at those 10 weeks and think, ‘wow, I learned so much during that period’. It was really hard to go back into the hospital system and take instruction from other people again.”

Despite being pushed out of her comfort zone, Adareeka recalls the excellent support staff on hand to guide her through.

“We had some excellent nurses at Laidley Hospital,” she says. “They were well trained and very good with that sort of thing. I also knew Ipswich Hospital well from being an intern. They were only a phone call away and would guide me through the whole process.”

“When I counsel junior doctors now I always tell them just put in a call and they’ll be happy to guide you through. I think the more experienced staff can remember it was them once upon a time!”

Developing great GPs

When the opportunity arose to formalise her interest in coaching the next generation of doctors by becoming a medical educator, Adareeka was keen to grasp it.

“I’ve always had an interest in teaching. I also remember having two great medical educators back when I started, who were very interesting and made it a fun learning environment.”

The role of a medical educator is broad, and Adareeka enjoys the opportunity to pass on her knowledge and develop the profession.

“I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with younger doctors,” she says. “All the registrars have amazing skills and bring something different to the process so I find I’m learning from them as well. I enjoy seeing them become competent GPs because at the end of the day we want great GPs in the system.”

Adareeka also finds her teaching responsibilities fit in easily around her clinical duties and caring for her young son.

“I work two days a week in the clinic and I do the teaching one day a week,” she says. “It works out really well.”

Adareeka also enjoys the challenge of supporting her fellow rural GPs, having relocated to Warwick and settling down with her husband who was already living and working there.

“When I met my husband I made the move permanently from city to country but I was happy to do it having grown up in the bush.”

She recently made the move slightly closer to family in Toowoomba where she makes the ‘easy’ commute to work, but still feels an important part of the local community in Warwick.

“There’s definitely a real sense of community,” she says. “It’s nice that you’re the GP, you’re a key member of the community – people know you.”