Being a Rural Generalist is a conglomeration of extremes. The very things that make it satisfying, such as being able to improve services by starting something new, can lead to the greatest frustrations when your great idea is not supported. The connection you have with patients that are your friends means you rejoice with them in the joy of the birth of a baby, but also means that you grieve with them in breaking bad news, or their loss of a loved one. The wonderful sense of belonging you experience as part of your community and knowing most people by name, can become problematic in times when you need to escape and have some anonymity.
Take me home…
Remaining connected to colleagues and groups outside of your immediate work environment is really important. The wealth of experience that exists within the family of rural doctors over decades of health care provision allows good ideas to be shared and networks formed. Being in the presence of those who have succeeded both personally and professionally working rurally is inspiring and encouraging. It also serves to reduce the isolation, where understanding of the challenges faced is implicit and support readily available when needed. You begin to see your place both to glean from those who have gone before but also to encourage and support those who follow behind.
To the place…
Organisations such as Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) and Rural Doctors Association of Australia have formed out of a collective desire to improve health care in rural communities and support the doctors on the ground in those communities.
The RDAQ annual conference is a great opportunity to meet rural health leaders, network, meet more of the ‘rural family’ and find a job! Families are also encouraged to attend so that they too can benefit from linking in and networking through the parallel program organised by Health Workforce Queensland (HWQ) and the Queensland Rural Medical Family Network (QRMFN).
Other conferences and / or organisations that provide exposure to professional development, networking and medico-political awareness are Rural Medicine Australia (RMA), World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) and National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) to name a few.
And organisations such as Doctors’ Health Advisory Services are also available to support and guide doctors who may be experiencing difficulties.
There are many opportunities to be linked into the bigger picture of rural health. You can join Facebook groups such as GPs Down Under, join advisory groups, take on mentoring opportunities or the John Flynn Placement Program. You may also want to consider expressing your interest in being a facilitator at rural health workshops or other similar educational events.
As a Rural Generalist, you have many platforms available to you to share innovations and learnings. Take up opportunities to promote and present what you do by publishing articles, presenting at conferences and generally sharing your knowledge and experience. Make what you do count for as much as possible. Engaging with your rural family will keep your Rural Generalist career fresh for the long-term.
Dr Natasha Coventry | Director of Medical Services – TCHHS East and Rural Generalist Training Advisor.