Medical Superintendent, Weipa
Dr Nick Cairns is the Acting Medical Superintendent for the Western Cape in Queensland. He was drawn to a leadership role within medicine as a way to positively influence as many people as possible in his community. “The role of Med Super in the Western Cape gave me the opportunity to help a lot more people through improvements and system changes. [As a doctor] each day you might help 30 patients, but integrating a solution to improve a health system could mean you can help hundreds to thousands.”
Rural Generalist training ensured Nick developed the skills needed to provide the services he does in Weipa. As a Med Super and GP anaesthetist, being able to confidently deliver clinically and in a leadership capacity is vital to the Weipa community. He has pursued further leadership training through the QRGP’s customised Rural Generalist Leader Program which will soon see him conferred with an Associate Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators. For Nick it ‘filled in the gaps’ and put him in contact with other significant leaders and experienced Medical Superintendents in Queensland.
Nick’s vision for Weipa centres around building research capacity and integrating new health services needed by the community. His wife, Alice, holds a PhD and works with James Cook University, reinforcing the productive partnership and collaboration opportunities between the university and local community.
“We work together to support projects because it helps to develop the skills of our staff, including allied health. It’s good around the table dinner conversation.” Normalising research as part of implementing new initiatives is an area of focus. “We have a duty as rural doctors to build research into our daily practice. Then we can provide the evidence that we’re getting the outcomes we feel we are. This is helpful for everyone, as other people can access our system changes or anything we’ve implemented to integrate or consciously choose not to pursue further.”
Weipa has a few key research projects in the works. With support from retrieval services, RFDS and paediatrics in Cairns and Townsville, they are attempting to develop a guideline for the use of high flow nasal oxygen treating children with bronchiolitis in the remote setting. Another potential project is undertaking research into the provision of kidney disease services by a Rural Generalist with an advanced skill in internal medicine. “There’s other projects we’re looking at that feature the skills of a Rural Generalist, such as delivery of ENT outreach services. There’s lots of areas that we’d like to trial, and if we can make this our daily practice and provide capacity to do so, we’ll get some good outcomes and publish those.”
Living and working in the far north offers so much more than satisfying work and good fishing for Nick. The close community is a major drawcard for Weipa. “People who come to work in places like Weipa are here because they like the outdoors and everything it has to offer up here. There’s also significant opportunities personally and professionally to develop your skills given the broad spectrum of clinical presentations and opportunity to create and improve health services, which I’m passionate about.”