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>>>Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Claire Walter

Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Claire Walter

Rural Generalist, Stanthorpe, undertaking obstetrics AST in 2024

Dr Claire Walter is a Rural Generalist who has been living and working in Stanthorpe, in the heart of the Queensland’s Granite Belt, for the past six years. Claire is passionate about providing the best possible care to her local community and utilises her skills across both hospital and primary care settings.

Rural generalism has provided Claire with the diverse learning and development opportunities she desired in a profession. “There are many interesting and rewarding medical specialties, but in rural medicine you are not confined to practising just one”.

“There are so many reasons why I have travelled down the Rural Generalist road (which includes despising traffic!). You never stop learning in a career in medicine and the close relationships with colleagues, patients, and friends in a rural community, makes for a very special and rewarding work environment. Every day is brand new and brings with it opportunities to challenge yourself and grow.”

Claire’s journey in rural generalism began as a rural scholarship holder with the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway (QRGP). “I joined the QRGP in my first year of medicine with Griffith University. If you practice rurally, you get to learn about and do a bit of everything. I lucked in when I got immersed in the wonderful world of emergency medicine as a registrar for two years at the Toowoomba Hospital emergency department. I was then fortunate enough to join the Redlands Hospital anaesthetics department where I was guided through my anaesthetics Advanced Skills Training by an inspiring group of practitioners”.

Landing in Stanthorpe was “a miracle” in Claire’s words. “When I started in Stanthorpe, I learnt how to be a general practitioner with Dr Michael Tremellen at My Family Medicine and got to flex and extend my skills in rural hospital medicine with my team as a Senior Medical Officer at Stanthorpe Hospital. I eventually completed by fellowship (FRACGP and FARGP) interspersed with growing my family. There have been so many great opportunities along the way, such as working with the RMEA team and Griffith University as a Medical Educator for our third year Longlook medical students, and dabbling as Acting Medical Superintendent in 2023 which was another newfound area in which I have been very ignorant about – the wonderful world of medical administration!”.

Claire’s drive to take on new experiences and opportunities has seen her thrive in a variety of roles and this year Claire has embarked on a year as a Principal House Officer at the Mater Hospital, to add an obstetrics advanced skill to her skillset.

Alongside Claire’s diverse professional journey, she and her husband Toby have welcomed children Henry (8), Lucy (3) and Charlotte (2). Rural generalism is an intense vocation, however Claire manages to maintain work life balance.

“I am on a perpetual steep learning curve and hindsight is both humbling and a gift. You have to find what works for you and your family and there is no absolute way of doing Life! Striking a balance between family, self, friends, and your profession is an ever-swinging pendulum, and so it’s ok to not always be perfectly centred. Let people help you, get a robot vacuum, and pressure cookers are great.”

Stepping into a leadership role and responding to the unique health needs of a community is challenging, however Claire encourages others to be brave, try things out and see where it takes you.

“Say yes, if you feel ready. However, if you try and you do not like something, have the courage to say ‘no thanks’. Trying out these roles brings with it great respect for the people who do it and do it well. Even if it’s not where you want to go long term, it gives you great experiences and better insight into how these complex systems and relationships work.”

For those commencing a career in rural generalism, Claire has some words of advice:

“Try new experiences – the good and the bad will expand your repertoire and build your toolkit. But (with a Capital B), if you do not like it despite giving it a go, then do not torture yourself by persisting in work that you do not enjoy. There is more to life, and there is something out there that will fill your cup – perhaps you just haven’t given it a go yet.”

May 9th 2024| Faces of RG, |