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Recent Fellow Dr Mohnish Jain enjoys splitting his work time between a large Toowoomba GP practice and Toowoomba Base Hospital’s ER. Here he shares why he’s decided that his future pathway has a rural focus, on both the home and work front.

A rural plan with GP at its heart

Mohnish is certainly a man with a well-thought out plan. While currently working as a GP and ER doctor, he’s opted to do a year of intensive anaesthetics training in 2022 to further support his future rural career.

“I eventually want to have a combined rural GP and hospital role, so this training will help me feel more confident managing things unsupported. For instance, if someone has a car crash and isn’t breathing, I can then feel confident I have the skill to keep their airway secure” he says.

The decision to undertake this training was made in conjunction with his fiancée, who has her eye on a rural GP career as well.

“She’s finishing med school this year, so she’ll be a junior doctor next year. This means she can’t go out rurally just yet, as she needs to be based at one of the larger hospitals,” he explains.

“We’re planning on getting married and having kids, so I’m sure that might throw a bit of a curve ball at us, but I think we’ve got it pretty down pat. It’s actually one of the big reasons why we want to move out rurally,” he says.

“We know a lot of people who work in the country and they say managing your work-life balance is easier. You don’t have a long commute and if you’re both doctors, you can roster yourself so there’s always someone home,” he smiles.

Mohnish feels his university choice had a big impact on cementing his decision to go rural.

“I studied medicine at James Cook University and the whole premise of the course is to help fill rural workforce shortages. It’s a credit to the course that people have really positive rural placement experiences. You quickly realise so many aspects of rural life are great, plus there are fewer layers of bureaucracy that run your work life.”

Medicine was always on the cards

Mohnish was born in India but grew up in New Zealand, and then moved to Australia a decade ago to undertake medical training. He says he’d always been interested in science at school, but it was his involvement in sports that may have pushed him towards the medical field.

“In New Zealand, just about everyone plays rugby at school, so you have lots of injuries and lots of trips to the doctor!”

Witnessing plenty of procedural work first hand and enjoying what he saw (but perhaps not what he felt!), Mohnish says choosing medicine was a logical step. But going through medical school, he became worried he wouldn’t find the right specialty.

“I never found a rotation where I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is it’ and so many of my friends did. I wondered if maybe I just didn’t like particular areas of medicine. But by the end of my intern year, I realised I actually enjoyed everything and that general practice was where I belonged.”

His decision to become a rurally-focused doctor was almost a foregone conclusion.

“Whenever I imagined what kind of doctor I’d be, I’d have visions of TV or movie doctors who just do it all. But in reality, there’s not many doctors like that who live and practise in the inner city with access to so many specialists. The only place you can be the Jack-of-all-trades doctor is in a rural area, and that capacity to do a lot of things really appeals to me,” he says.

Diverse medicine with deep patient connection

Mohnish worked at a range of GP practices during his training time, including six months at Logan.

“It is a really different patient demographic to Toowoomba with people from lots of different ethnic backgrounds. The health literacy rate is also quite low, so the medicine was unique,” he explains.

“People would come in not knowing they can take Panadol for a headache, or heart attack patients would wait three days before coming in to say they’ve got chest pains. It was challenging but also so rewarding, and I think you can make a much bigger difference in that space.”

Mohnish feels one of the biggest drawcards of rural practice are the patient relationships.

“You get a lot of respect as you’re the go-to person for everything, plus you see your patients around all the time and can make those deep connections. It’s a lovely feeling – it’s actually what fuels you to keep going,” he says.

Addressing registrar worries about practising rurally

Mohnish acknowledges that some GP registrars might feel a little concerned about the challenges of rural medicine. But to address that, he shares advice he received from GPs who’ve been practising upwards of 40 years.

“They said that when you choose a career as a rural generalist, it’s a really slow burn. You’ll pick up the knowledge, but it comes over time. You might also often have a feeling of uneasiness, but that tells you you’re learning something new and growing as a medical professional,” he says.

“I encourage you to go rural and challenge yourself. You’ll gain more skills, greater empathy and be a better doctor overall. And you might just fall in love with something that you’ve been too afraid to try.”

When it comes to working and living in a rural community, Mohnish says it offers plenty of advantages.

“I can’t think of anything worse than doing an 11 hour day and then having to sit in my car for an hour to get home. In a country town, everything’s close by including work, and it’s really an easy-going lifestyle,” he says.

“You also become very close to your colleagues and make great friendships. I did some rural relieving as a junior doctor and would often go out with all the other doctors in town and do things I’d never done before, like play ultimate Frisbee. They’re all so welcoming.”

Learn more about the AGPT rural pathway here