It’s been over a year since registrar couple Zoe Wright and Ryan Avery arrived in Warwick (population 15,000), and the South East Queensland town best known for roses and rodeos already feels like home.
The couple recently purchased their first house — a rambling Queenslander set on a two-acre block — something they admit they would never have been able to afford in the city. And a collection of animals, which seems obligatory in this idyllic country setting, is already building. So far there are two dogs, two cats, a horse, and a flock of chickens.
Both in their fourth year of ACRRM training, Zoe and Ryan are based at the town’s biggest general practice, the Condamine Medical Centre, along with eight GPs and four other registrars.
They work alternating weeks at Warwick Hospital, where Zoe is pursuing Advanced Specialised Training (AST) in anaesthetics and Ryan has chosen to specialise in obstetrics.
Watching many of their friends — other medical couples who are pursuing surgical careers — having to accept training opportunities that see them living apart makes the gift of settling in Warwick and training side-by-side all the richer.
The best of both worlds
Building specialised skills while learning the craft of general practice really is the best of both worlds, according to Zoe.
“I enjoy all of the different aspects of my work,” she says.
“I love anaesthetics and right now I am also working across the emergency department at the hospital and providing inpatient treatment.
“The general practice side of things is completely different and certainly not without challenge — it is actually where I’ve taken longer to find my groove — but I find it so rewarding.”
“I enjoy being able to care for patients in hospital and then see them for follow up and preventative care in general practice,” he says.
“I have a passion for women’s health and hope to continue in the footsteps of some of the amazing obstetrics-trained rural doctors already based at Warwick Hospital. It’s wonderful that we can give local women the opportunity to birth in their home town.”
A one minute commute to work, no parking fees and the ability to nip home for lunch on not-so-busy days are just a few of the extra benefits that life as a rural GP can provide.
That community feeling
It’s called small-town living. People in the country tend to connect and support each other more because they need to. Zoe and Ryan have experienced this phenomenon first hand.
“We’ve felt supported in every sense since we arrived,” Zoe says.
“The senior doctors at our practice and at the hospital have been incredible. They are passionate about passing on their knowledge and they really want to help us to succeed in this setting. I guess, looking at it from their perspective, they have spent years building something and they want to see it continue to flourish.”
Ryan agrees, adding that patients and the broader local community have welcomed both of them with open arms.
“For a start, I think local people are just very appreciative that we are here,” he says.
“They are grateful for new doctors coming to town and increasing the access they have to medical services.”
He adds that friendships have quickly been formed.
“It’s been difficult socially through Covid-19, but we’ve made friendships with people in local restaurants, gyms, car clubs and in the horse-riding community,” Ryan explains.
“I am hoping to get involved with local cricket and soccer teams when they become available. People are genuine and friendly around here, which is something we love about the town.”
A career with flexibility
While Warwick has revealed itself to be a pretty great fit for this couple, both say the ACRRM registrar journey has opened their eyes to the diverse possibilities a rural generalist career can offer.
“Through being part of the program and seeing what other registrars have done we’ve learned that there are just so many options,” Ryan explains.
“You can work two days in a general practice and then work the rest of the week in retrieval medicine.
“Some colleagues of ours spend part of the year in a rural general practice and then part of the year in Antarctica,” he says.
“ACRRM registrars are in high demand for locum work as well,” Zoe adds.
“The sky is the limit.”
If you have any questions about the AGPT rural pathway get in touch with us on (07) 3552 8100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.