Dr John Buckley
Meet GPTQ Director of Medical Education, Dr John Buckley
In his final year of high school, Dr John Buckley knew he wanted to help people. He met with his local chemist to discuss a career in pharmacy.
He said to me, “My entire working life, I have wished that I was on the other side of this wall writing the scripts, instead of this side filling the scripts. I could do so much more for people, and I feel I’m disappointed in my whole career.”
Achieving a medical degree
This advice stuck with John. He changed his university preferences in the final round and the following year was a medical student at The University of Queensland.
Six years later, he had a medical degree but another big decision to make; he needed to choose a specialty. Like most medical graduates, John couldn’t decide.
Gravitating towards general practice
He needed to repay his state-funded medical scholarship, so his early career placements were dictated by the Queensland Government. He began his career at Rockhampton Hospital. After two years, he moved to Mount Morgan to run a small hospital. He joined AGPT’s pre-runner, the family medicine program, and then returned to Rockhampton Hospital for two years, where his supervisor was Dr John de Vries.
John Buckley says that general practice was the natural outcome of his early work experience.
“It ended up being what I enjoyed anyway. I enjoyed the day-to-day routine with patients more than emergency or other things in my small hospital,” he says.
An Albany Creek GP for over two decades
John received his GP Fellowship in 1992.
He has practised at Albany Creek in Brisbane for the past 22 years, and is passionate about general practice.
“What I love is developing long-term relationships with people and going through their life experiences with them,” John says. “And also, that is the hardest bit because sometimes the relationships are not always easy.”
Building solid patient relationships over time
“I’ve been to plenty of funerals of people I met in that first year or two that I moved back to Brisbane. I’ve been through their illnesses. They’re 80 and I meet their 60-year-old kids at their funeral, and they tell me how Mum and Dad used to always talk about me. It’s a very special job.”
In his practice, John noticed patients were coming to him for second opinions. He sensed they weren’t getting the right care. This motivated him to become an educator. Medical education, John says, was a way to indirectly impact thousands of patients instead of just the few he could see himself.
Influencing outcomes through better education
He says: “I can be in this little pond and make some pretty reasonable ripples with the patients that I see, or I can enter into a position where I can influence lots and lots of other people to practise a bit the way I think they can and look after themselves so they don’t burn out, and that way I will put very small ripples into a very large lake.”
As an educator, John wants to instil an energy in future GPs to do great work with continual vigor. He wants young doctors “to reflect, to be patient, to try”. He says: “Some days it’s very hard to try. Things will go wrong and you will fail to meet your own expectations at times.” He encourages doctors to forgive themselves and prioritise self-care.
Taking a balanced approach
“Self-care isn’t about not working. It’s about enjoying that work, debriefing properly, doing other things for balance,” John says. This includes having a life outside of medicine. “Life and family are always more important than work and training.”
But John is also careful not to draw a line between ‘life’ and ‘work’. For him, general practice is part of a happy life.
He says: “My work brings richness and rewards on a regular basis. My work is a very important, rich and valuable part of my life that’s not dragging me down – it’s lifting me up.”
Part of John’s job satisfaction can be attributed to his attitude. “I choose to come in and enjoy my day and be happy,” he says.
John’s values seem to be infiltrating into GPTQ’s registrars. He says the most satisfying aspect of his job is seeing junior doctors develop into competent and passionate GPs.
“Watching people come into training and leave, and listening to the already amazing, caring doctors they’ve become is the most amazing thing,” he says.